Small Business IT Versatility
By Matthew J. Tyson, IT Specialist
Versatility is a small business advantage. When it comes to Information Technology (IT) solutions, that versatility allows small businesses to take advantage of newer computer technologies, especially open source ones, more quickly, reducing costs and devising more efficient solutions to business challenges. In this sense, smaller firms have an advantage over older, more established businesses, where bureaucracy and expensive physical infrastructure make it difficult to keep up with rapidly evolving IT trends. Here’s a look at a few computer technologies that smaller business can adopt to offer more effective solutions to their clients.
Put simply, virtual infrastructure is any IT solution that is not physically tangible but just as important as its physical equal. For example, instead of possessing a local area network with physical servers to backup files or host a website, small businesses frequently use subscription-based cloud services — like Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, or Dropbox — to keep company files secure and readily accessible. This saves small businesses money while keeping its IT infrastructure streamlined and easier to administer. It also protects files from hardware failure.
Software engineers developing a SaaS, or software as a service, can also use a PaaS, or platform as a service, which does all the major heavy lifting so that small businesses can focus on developing only those applications that they need without worrying about how to keep it secure. Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, and Dropbox are all considered SaaS, while Google Firebase is an example of a PaaS. Due to the sophisticated systems of third-party service providers like Microsoft or Google, securing such a virtual infrastructure is much less costly than maintaining a physical one.
Security Keys and other Multi-factor Authentication Technologies
Security keys that you can have physically on your keychain or mobile authenticator apps can help keep your computer and accounts more secure by allowing for what is called multi-factor authentication. Instead of relying on a single password, users can have a physical security key, which plugs into the work computer, or a phone app that can generate security codes allowing them to process a second authentication of their account. While such solutions used to be costly and limited only to sophisticated large businesses, they are now readily available through third-party service providers, and many small businesses are beginning to turn to them for added security.
Refillable Inkjet Printers
Since smaller businesses do not require as much printing, there are some inkjet printers that have ink tanks that can be refilled, which can save a business significant money every year. These printers are newly available and very cost effective. For these type of printers, refill bottles of ink can cost less than $20 dollars for remanufactured ink and around $40 dollars for the official ink. What’s more, because of the amount of ink you get, it can last over ten times longer than normal ink cartridges.
Open Source Software Frameworks, Libraries, and Applications
There is a lot of software that is created by communities of software developers called open source software. A small business can quickly take advantage of open source software, which is usually free to use and quite powerful. Also, most open source software has very attractive licenses, which allows you to use them for commercial purposes. By contrast, larger businesses may have huge software projects already developed with older software development technologies, which makes it very difficult and costly to rewrite them with newer and better open source software development technologies. Any small business startup can develop their software on newer open source technologies without having to go through rewriting their older software systems like a larger business would need to do.
A huge advantage a small business has over a larger business is being able to integrate newer computer technologies into their employee workflow. The overhead costs associated with training a small work force on how to integrate newer technologies in their daily workflow is not as costly. In many cases smaller businesses do not have to spend as much for some computer technologies, like security software and hardware, since they do not require the enterprise versions of these technologies. This versatility is one of the main core advantages that a small business has over a larger business, leading to more effective, cost-efficient solutions for their clients.
Through these and other low-cost investments a small business can improve its business effectiveness and security.