Technology changes so quickly, it’s difficult to keep up. This can actually work to the advantage of small businesses because prices tend to come down faster, too. Technologies that were initially too expensive for the average small business become affordable more quickly.
Learn about three of the most popular tech trends and how they can benefit small businesses.
3D printing is rapidly changing the way many products are designed and produced. Businesses from jewelry makers and artists to medical engineers and industrial designers are adopting it. The process begins with a digital model of the item to be created. The actual printing uses thin layers of material (paper, plastic, even metal) to build the final item.
Some of the most popular uses of 3D printing are for making highly customized products and for producing prototypes faster and cheaper than traditional methods such as injection molding. Small businesses that want to invest in their own equipment can purchase personal 3D printers priced from $300 to $2,000. For larger, more complicated jobs, printing services are available from commercial 3D printers.
Cloud computing offers small businesses access to software and technical services that were previously cost-prohibitive. It uses remote servers hosted online rather than physical servers, hard drives, disks or other storage devices. Once uploaded, files are accessible anywhere from any device: desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. Your files remain secure, and you no longer have to worry about losing data in a computer crash or if a laptop is lost or stolen.
Cloud-based software eliminates the need for physical software. Many applications are specifically designed for small businesses. You’ll find a wide variety of cloud-based applications from invoicing and project tracking to document signing and conference calling.
Cloud storage and backup are available for a monthly or yearly fee based on how much space you require. You can also subscribe to specific cloud-based services and applications. Popular uses for cloud computing include project management, customer relationship management (CRM), and online collaboration.
A smartphone is already a must-have for business professionals, and tablets are surpassing laptop PC’s in sales. New devices are taking technology even further.
Business apps are proliferating for every field and function, from retail, accounting, and medicine to networking, productivity, and sales. Small businesses are spending more money on mobile technology including devices, apps, and security and using more business apps, mobile-friendly web sites, and mobile apps for employees.
Recent additions to the mobile device pipeline include hybrid phone and tablet devices (phablets) offering larger screens, cloud storage, and power to run more robust software. Manufacturers are also offering tablets that transform into laptops specifically aimed at business users.
New technology is always tempting. The challenge is to be strategic about using it. Invest in technology that will improve your efficiency and have a measurable impact on your bottom line.
Kelly Burkart is a freelance writer from Minneapolis, Minn. While she has spent most of her time writing about financial services the past 15 years, she has also explored and written about everything from cardiovascular health to travel, higher education and sustainable energy practices.