By Clodagh Murphy, Director of Eclipse Internet

Technology has changed dramatically over the last 15 years — most of us remember a time before the internet, email and social media but how would we cope without them now and how can small businesses benefit?

Location, location, location.... not anymore

The location of your business used to be one of the most important factors in making your business succeed.

With increased access to the internet and the development of tools such as smart phones allowing connectivity when you’re mobile, you can access your emails and work tools on the move - it simply doesn’t matter where you are as long as you have reliable connectivity. Technology is allowing this to happen and companies are looking at doing this with reliable solutions that are both secure and cost effective.

Faster & faster speeds

To work in this way, you need to have the peace of mind that your internet services are reliable and that you can count on them to deliver. With the amount of data that we now use in every-day tasks and communicating with each other, it’s also essential that your connection speed is up to the job.

Fibre broadband is being rolled out across the UK allowing businesses to benefit from speeds up to 40Mbps. The next stage in these developments will deliver speeds up to 100Mbps when brought straight to the property.

Internet services providers also offer bespoke solutions to their customers such as providing dedicated internet access. This is an investment for your business but gives you guaranteed performance as well as being reliable and secure. This is often a solution for companies that are dependent on the internet and need guaranteed bandwidth e.g. a design agency needing fast and reliable upload and download speeds or a professional service (solicitor) who deals with sensitive data.

Finding a cost effective solution

According to the Federation of Small Businesses’ annual survey in 2009, the top areas of concern for the next year are the economy/recession (72%) and cash flow (42%).

With this in mind, businesses are looking for ways to reduce costs. The latest technology doesn’t necessarily mean a big expense for your business. Internet service providers are offering cloud computing solutions, allowing you to access and manage business applications over the internet and away from your office.

Paying monthly for these services mean that your business can manage cash flow more effectively but it doesn’t stop there. Using a solution like this means that you can keep up to date with the latest software, have an inbuilt disaster recovery/data backup solution and it’s greener for the environment.

The customer experience

The internet now gives businesses the chance to reach wider audiences but with the internet being so accessible, customers want instant gratification means that businesses are looking for ways to keep up with customers’ needs.

The internet means that direct customer contact is not always necessary. If information can be found on a company website, customers don’t need to contact you directly and their question can be answered quickly. At Eclipse, 9 out of 10 of our customers don’t need to contact us — this means that we can focus our attention on responding to those customers that need to speak to us.

Social media —a benefit for your business?

Over the last couple of years, we have all seen the increase in using social media — something that small businesses in particular can benefit from using. There is no need for a big marketing budget and by being creative with how you use the various platforms, you can go up against the bigger competitors. However, disgruntled customers can easily air their views to your customer base and companies now have to monitor social media platforms so that they can react quickly.

In summary, technology can be seen as both a friend and a foe to small businesses. A friend as you can access the world from virtually anywhere; a foe as it can cost a business a lot of money to keep up to date with the latest advances. The trick is to find the solution and partner that helps your business cut costs but still deliver the technology you need.

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