How Do You Handle an Internet Outage in Your Small Business?

 

Consumers are well aware that Internet blackouts and service interruptions can happen from time to time. Numerous threats from natural disasters, cyberattacks, and system errors and even scheduled maintenance can easily compromise a fiber, cable or DSL network. Though consumers may be inconvenienced by the disruption in service, for business customers the results of a prolonged or even intermittent outage could be devastating. And the smaller those businesses are, and the more central the web is to their operations, the more the impact is felt.

Internet Connectivity Sits at the Heart of Most Businesses

After years of hearing about the advantages of cloud-based platforms and tools, smaller companies these days are increasingly relying on Internet access for practically every area of their business: operations, sales, marketing, payment processing, and customer service. In fact, research is showing increased adaption among smaller companies of SaaS, digital marketing, cloud-based content management and inventory management, as well as a slew of online collaboration tools and apps.

This is aside from the fact that some businesses models, like ecommerce sites, are entirely based on online transactions.

When Internet outages occur, the inability to access or record vital information, process orders, and reach out to customers, can cause businesses to lose a significant amount of revenue. It doesn’t help customer relations, either.

How Small Businesses Can Back Up their Internet Access

There are a couple of cost-effective options for small companies looking to maintain an Internet connection in the face of an outage:

  1. The first is to set up two different land-based Internet connections, such as fiber line and a DSL connection. Thus, if one goes down the other one can take over. The problem with this strategy is that land-based services tend to share the same locations. So, if a natural disaster is the cause the blackout, then both lines could be compromised.
  2. The other option is to rely on a satellite based connection, Wi-fi, that automatically takes over in the event of a disruption in service. All that’s needed is a Wi-fi modem, antenna and something called a failover router. This router detects an outage and then sends traffic from the primary connection to the Wi-fi connection. Once the primary connection is back online, the router then redirects traffic to it.

Bottom line: most small businesses and even large ones, can’t afford to lose their access to the Internet even for a few hours. But, with a little foresight a difficult situation can be easily averted.

SaaS – What’s in It for Your Small Business?

“Software as a service” is making computer news these days – but what’s in it for your small business? Is SaaS just a nerdy fad or does it really have a place in your business? SaaS, far from being a passing phase, has the capability to jump start your business. Do saving time and money while increasing efficiency sound good to you? The list of SaaS’s benefits starts there … and grows.

 

As you may know, SaaS is a new method of software delivery. Instead of the conventional model in use since the 90s – software which is installed onto your firm’s computers from purchased disks or downloads – SaaS is Web-based, offering access to the information you need on a subscription basis. All you have to do is sign up and log on. In fact, you are probably using one or more simple, free forms of SaaS already – online banking or webmail, perhaps.

 

Far from being pie-in-the-sky or only for Fortune 500-ers, SaaS makes sense for every enterprise, regardless of size. Besides a very impressive cost-benefit ratio, it allows small businesses room to expand and to compete with large corporations. Omri Erel, Marketing Director for walkme.com and self-proclaimed SaaS Addict, has to say on the subject: “SaaS by design is actually far more convenient for small businesses than any classical software model out there.”

 

Keep Your Customers Happy
Software as a service is gaining ground most rapidly in the field of customer relations management. By 2011, 35% of CRM software was SaaS-platform based. Gartner’s Market Trends forecasts that that percentage will rise to over 50% as of 2016.

 

Save Money
To update an old saw, why pay for the cow when you can rent the milk for much less? A relatively modest monthly payment gives you feature-rich computer services. For example, desktop applications similar to the popular Microsoft Office suite are available without the hefty licensing fee. And you completely avoid having to make an enormous initial investment in servers and infrastructure. What’s more, you benefit from your service provider’s economies of scale. IT costs are uniform and predictable.

 

Save Time
For most small business operators, software is a waste of time – literally. The amount of hours your employees invest in searching for, installing, maintaining and updating software could be better spent, simply put, on doing their jobs. Add to that staff time spent waiting for IT to deal with any problems that arise and you’ve got a serious productivity drain on your hands. By contrast, SaaS makes the latest version of the software you need available instantly, whenever you need to access it.

 

Make that wherever you need to access it, as well. You are no longer limited to just the on-site desktop computers in your office, but can conveniently get at essential information from your mobile or tablet literally anywhere you happen to be – such as a hotel room or an airport.

 

Be Consistent, Be Flexible
Whether on the road, in your new branch office or meeting in a client’s boardroom, all your staff will have access to the same data. For instance, the latest Excel spreadsheet on up-to-the-minute budget figures is available without jumping through hoops to get it. This opens the door to greater flexibility in collaborating with a team that may include your employees, clients and resource personnel, all working together on a project from different locations, yet all on the same page. Updates to software and information are applied across the board. Companies with work from home and flexible hours policies will find this equally convenient.

 

Another aspect of SaaS flexibility is the capability to scale up as your company grows, without large budgetary outlays for upgraded software or IT assistance.

 

Be Secure
Your information is protected with state of the art standards of security and encryption technology when you use SaaS. A lost or stolen laptop or a hard drive crash will no longer spell disaster. Every file is automatically backed up, so your valuable data will be safe.

The monetary savings associated with the subscription model, access to the best computers and most cutting edge software around plus efficiency, security, flexibility and ease of use leave only one question to be answered – how can you afford not to upgrade to SaaS?

 

How Cloud Computing Can be Used in Your Small Business

In a previous post, I offered an updated definition of cloud computing. In short, cloud computing refers to the use of Internet-based services to support various business processes in real time. In practical terms, cloud computing allows small businesses to remotely manage and store information, and access customized software or services from any device featuring Internet access.

 

Though the concept of cloud computing started generating a buzz in 2009, the majority of small businesses have been reluctant to make the switch from desktop and in-house equipment and services. But that may soon change. According to Ray Boggs, vice president of SMB research for IDC, companies with 100 or fewer employees are expected to spend $2.4 billion on Cloud Computing services this year. This constitutes a considerable increase over last year’s $1.7 billion.

There is a lot to be said for commercial- based cloud computing. Cloud-based services can help small businesses significantly reduce their software and hardware computing costs. This includes a reduction in power bills and the costs for maintaining and upgrading hardware. Cloud computing also allows for easier collaboration with workers and clients from remote locations. Finally, the software and services accessed via the cloud are typically upgraded with the latest improvements in functionality.

Small business can utilize cloud computing in several vital areas: Small business SaaS applications often involve customer relationship management, human resource management, finance and accounting programs, and document collaboration. Cloud computing is ideal for these purposes. Through the use of online storage services, small businesses can also boost their storage capacity and create online backup and archiving accounts. And perhaps the most ubiquitous of commercial usage is the online office suite with collaboration tools which allows for remote access information sharing, editing, and storage.

For those small business owners who are just now looking into cloud computing services for their business, there are several popular options to choose from. For starters:

Google Apps. Google Apps provides a custom email address, tools for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations, a shared calendaring system and access to a flexible intranet system. This software package is especially beneficial for small businesses involved in business travel, remote collaboration, or any form of project management.

Microsoft Web Apps. Microsoft has entered the cloud computing fray with its suite of enterprise-grade e-mail communications, Web videoconferencing, CRM and collaboration solutions

Zoho.com. Zoho is another richly featured, web-based office suite

Infusion CRM. A comprehensive CRM solution that supports online shopping carts and sales transactions, auto-responders, product information, customer details, order history, payment plans, lead tracking and progression, and Skype CRM integration.

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