When it comes to technology, every home-based business owner can feel a little bit alone from time to time. There’s no help-desk or IT staff to call when your PC, Internet connection, or other devices are on the blink. It’s your problem. These tech challenges are not something to be taken lightly.
So here are some of the biggest technology challenges for home-based businesses—and some tips for how to make sure you don’t fall victim to them.
1. Hackers, viruses, and malware… oh my!
- Home-based businesses that store sensitive information, especially customer data—know that safety is a constant concern. We’re not talking about the inconvenience of having a single home PC infected by a virus here. We’re talking about a catastrophic loss or compromise of mission-critical data. Hackers know that small businesses lack the technological know-how to set up robust security and often look to small businesses as easy targets. Don’t skimp on the virus and firewall software. A package like Norton 360 can insure you have a virus free, secure environment.
2. Help Desk Less
- Many small-business owners don’t know a lot about technology or don’t have the time to deal with it. Their best solution when something goes wrong is to call the manufacturer and wait on hold for hours, or call a friend who knows something about computers, fax machines, or telephones. Consult with a real IT professional when you buy your components not the 17 yr old kid at Best Buy.
3. Go business-grade
- The High-speed Internet was built for someone’s home use. Ask the phone or cable company classify you as a business account. That way, you’ll get priority service during an outage. This also allows you to get more bandwidth for clearer VoIP calls as you surf.
4. Nice vs. Necessary
- Most business owners are good at what they do and want to run their business, not be a technologist. Result: These business owners often make bad purchasing decisions. They buy the wrong PC, the wrong printer, or the wrong fax machine. Apart from hiring an IT consultant to guide you through major purchasing decisions, I suggest asking a few tough questions before buying any gadgets for the home office. What hardware is really necessary and at what point is it just bells and whistles? The minimalist approach is often usually best. Consolidate functions such as faxing, printing and scanning into a three-in-one machine. You don’t need a stand-alone device for everything. Remember, less is more.
5. Back It Up
- Regularly backing up your data isn’t easy for any business. But when a home-based company runs out of hard-drive space, chances are pretty good the data will not get backed up for an indefinite period of time. As a result, many home-based and small businesses simply do not recover when data is lost. Another key is off-site backup. What happens if there is a fire or theft in your home office? Your data is gone. Off Site backup services can offer a 2nd level of protection. Also, try to restore your data as a test. I have seen problems with home businesses because they often don’t know how to restore from a backup, which means they lose time and potentially data. It is not a question of if it will happen, but when.
The key to overcoming these technology challenges isn’t just knowing about them, but having the right attitude about them too. Which is to say: Be proactive. Don’t wait until a disaster, hacker attack, or outage to do something about it. Heading off a problem before it impacts or shuts down a business is the key.
If you wait too long, you could be out of business.
Special thanks to the Microsoft Business Team for input and content!