By Alan Ritchie, Managing Director, PC World Business

Half a million new businesses were set up last year, and according to the Small Firms Association, two thirds of these start-ups are expecting to grow this year. Competition is at a record high. Investing in the right technology will help you stand out from the crowd. By choosing the right products and tools, you can save money, become more mobile and increase productivity. Here are my top technology tips for small business owners looking to grow their business.

1.) Move your business to the cloud

Cloud computing can help your business cut down on costs, while enabling your employees to access important company documents on the move. The cloud is becoming commonplace for SMEs, as company servers can prove to be an expensive initial outlay, particularly when the same functions can be activated for a fraction of the cost in the cloud. Cloud computing uses a network of remote servers hosted on the internet to store, manage, and process data. For example, Knowhow’s Cloud for Small Business service provides customers with secure and regular backing up of data and allows for easy access from anywhere in the world.

2.) Host virtual meetings

There are several technical solutions that support remote working by allowing employees to participate in calls and conferences even if they are in different locations. Voice over IP (VoIP) technology enables you to make phone calls over the internet and is cheaper than traditional fixed conference lines. With systems like Google Hangouts or Webex, you can host virtual meetings and take advantage of powerful tools such as screen sharing.

3.) Bring your IT support home with you

Remote IT Management is another great way to ensure your business stays mobile. It gives a company a full time network of experts who troubleshoot, fix network problems and give advice and assistance either over the telephone or by directly accessing and controlling your computer screen. Employees can be set up to work remotely, meaning although they are offsite, networking services will still be fully functional and support from experts is only a phone call away.

4.) Take advantage of apps

Business owners now have access to a brilliant selection of apps, which can help with anything from diary coordination, to accounting, to sharing notes and ideas with colleagues. For example, file-accessing apps are vital for busy business owners on the go. Apps like Evernote and LogMeIn enable entrepreneurs to access, share and sync data across multiple devices, providing the ability to work from anywhere. Harvest is another great web app that can help you better manage your time, keeping track of how you spend your day, logging daily business and personal activity and providing the insight required to plan and budget for the future. It also includes built-in accounts functionality, which can help with tasks like issuing invoices or processing payments.

5.) Use ultra-mobility devices

A huge range of laptops, tablets and smartphones are now available that easily enable employees to work flexibly and connect with the office while they’re offsite. Ultra-mobility laptops, which range from 11.6 to 13.3 inch screen sizes, are compact enough to carry with you but have a large enough screen to comfortably view detailed documents. For example, the Lenovo Yoga range offers laptop and tablet functionality and is ideal for employees who are regularly out of the office.

Every business is different and the key to kitting yours out with the technology best suited to your needs is to spend time planning and researching. It’s also worth seeking help from a small business IT specialist.