Anand Srinivasan
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The Small Business Owners' Guide To Technology

Anand Srinivasan

June 29, 2015

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If you are a small business owner who still thinks it is okay to not have a website or accept inquiries over email, then think again. A study by Motorola Solutions has found that nearly 39% of instances where a consumer walks out of a store without buying was influenced by smartphones. With smartphones becoming nearly ubiquitous, consumers no longer purchase a product or hire a contractor without comparing prices and checking reviews.

Technology can however be quite intimidating for a small business owner and terms like cloud, caching, CTR, open source, etc. can sound a little confusing. In this guide, we will take you through those fundamental aspects with technology that every small business owner must be acquainted with to make a successful transition online.

Cloud : You can handle your inventory, tasks and invoices through a software installed on your computer, or use services that handle them over a website – you only need to login with your username and password and perform your tasks. Accessing your services through a third-party website is called cloud. As I have pointed out in an earlier article, there is a strong argument for small businesses to migrate to the cloud. When talking to your web developer or a managed services team, insist on using cloud where possible.

Website Management : Every business requires a website. Local web designers are often ready to work on a contract where they shall handle all aspects of your website including registering your domain name (the name of your website), designing your website, handling hosting server (similar to your computer. Contains your website files and is present at a remote location connected through internet), etc.

Open Source : There are a number of website management tools that are crowd-managed and are free to use. This has brought down the cost of building your own website quite significantly. If you are bootstrapped and do not want to spend too much money on building a website, ask the developer to use an open source platform like Wordpress and design the site using free themes.

Smartphone Email Notification : Visitors reaching out to you through your website either call you or send you an online inquiry. Most small business owners miss the second part since they do not check emails regularly. If you use a smartphone like an Android or iPhone device, follow online tutorials like these to send you notifications for new emails. This way, you can call back any customer who reaches out to you.

CDN : Like in the real world, there are online miscreants who may try to attack your website. Other times, a surge in traffic to your server could impact your website. This means any customer visiting your website during those times may be unable to access contents properly. CDN (Content Delivery Networks) are services that keep a backup copy of your website with them so that visitors coming to your website are actually made to view contents through the CDN network. Since these services have vastly superior technology, they do a better job in thwarting attacks and hacking attempts. Your site is hence kept live at all times.

SEO : Most people who do not know you exist often take to search engines like Google to search for products and services you provide. SEO stands for 'Search Engine Optimization' and is basically a list of guidelines that your website must follow in order to be seen on top of the search results. The higher you rank on Google, the larger is the number of visitors you can expect to see on your website. However, there are good and bad ways to do SEO. While hiring a consultant, insist on “white hat” techniques (those that are considered good strategies) and focus on “local SEO” and “mobile SEO”. Local SEO is important for small businesses who want to be seen by people in their city or neighborhood while mobile SEO ensures that you cater better to people who use the mobile phone to search for what they need. A Microsoft study shows that nearly one half of all local search queries are performed on mobile phones.

Just knowing what these various terms above mean and imply is sufficient to find the right people to handle the technology aspects of your business. It is always a good idea to educate yourself too since it helps you better in negotiating down prices and making your requirements more tangible. Like it or not, small businesses are getting increasingly impacted by technology. It is up to the owner to realize the opportunities that exist and the challenges that must be overcome in order to smoothly transition to a tech-savvy local business. After all, this is what your customer wants.


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