By Simon Burkhardt, Managing Director of Vonage UK

More and more small business owners are waking up to the benefits of using technology to spur growth, but how can you make sure that you are using it to the best possible effect, and not actively hindering your business?

These days, investment in technology is one of the biggest drivers of small businesses. Customers are starting to discriminate between those small businesses that have moved with the times and those that have stayed stuck in the mud. Employees are more likely to innovate and be engaged in a company that demonstrates flexible and collaborative working, enabled by the myriad technology services available in the business space – and your bottom line won’t complain either.

But it’s wise to be wary when it comes to some technology. A piece of software may seem like a sound investment but could actually end up hampering businesses who get mired in investment in licenses and regular software upgrades. This can result in being a costly and inefficient use of your time, compounded by the extra investment in the hardware to run it on and the hassle of staying on top of IT support.

Instead, the smartest small businesses are using cloud-based technology to improve their working practices, transform the output they can provide for their customers and ultimately, grow their business. Using the cloud, you can effectively rent the software your company uses and save time, money, and helpdesk-related headaches.

Cloud computing, or software as a service (SaaS) includes everything you can think of, from presentations to accounting; from customer relationship management to communications. Crucially, it turns what can be a costly capital expense into a predictable, efficient cost-effective one.

When it comes to communications, businesses often find that a mobile phone number or home phone service doesn't provide the professional image that they strive for in the rest of their operation and, in these cases, could opt for a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) solution.

Based in the cloud and designed to easily scale up or down according to growth, you can mask your mobile or home number with a more trustworthy ‘business’ number as your caller ID. Business callers can also be forwarded seamlessly to a mobile phone number, so you or your employees can handle calls from any location. This provides flexibility without having to consider the cost or inconvenience of installing new landlines.

The cloud, and the countless services it includes, enables small businesses to ensure their technology and infrastructure will let them grow quickly in the good times and scale back just as quickly in the lean times – a benefit which does not always apply to more bulky, inflexible products and services. The ability to grow technology with a small business is crucial to its future, and owners should make sure they are aware of the pros and cons before investing in technology, to ensure it best suits their business.