Great Ideas for your Small Business:
Find the Right Communications Technology for Your Business
When it came time to consider the best kinds of communications technology for my business, I turned to an expert I can trust: my sister Amy Berger, founder of Berger Technology Research in Reseda, California.
Communicating with your customers is the most important thing for small business owners.
Here are some key devices and services to consider:
1. Cellular telephones.
In today’s mobile society, most business owners need a cell phone. They are getting cheaper every year and many companies offer excellent and flexible service plans, so you’ll want to shop around for the best deal. Digital phones are being superseded by PCS telephones.
PCS stands for “personal communications services.” PCS relies on radio frequencies that the FCC made available with- in the past few years. PCS frequencies are now available nationwide, but make sure they are in your area before you buy a phone.
There are many, many companies providing a confusing array of cellular phone services. Do your homework and ask other business owners which providers they use before signing a long-term service contract.
2. Multifunction boxes.
This telecommunications product looks like a printer with a scanner, but it can do four things: fax, print, copy, and scan. For about $800 retail, it’s a great deal for a small office. Hewlett-Packard and Canon make these affordable multifunctional machines.
3. Two-way pagers.
PageNet and Skytel sell pagers that can answer a message. With new technology and radio frequencies, users can send an alphanumeric message and receive a reply. Some pagers can hook up to your voice mail system for continual access to incoming phone calls.
Again, there are many, many models and service providers, so look for reliability and solid equipment. E-mail pagers are also available.
4. Internet service providers.
There are more than 5,000 Internet service providers in the world, ranging from tiny businesses to AT&T.
The Internet provides access to unlimited information, e-mail, and electronic commerce. You can also link to individual customers’ websites and find all sorts of specialized business-support groups.
5. Personal digital assistants (PDAs).
These devices are the size of a small waffle. They typically have a small screen and a writing device—much like the Etch-A-Sketch you played with as a kid. Many PDAs have some kind of mini-keyboard and modem. They are portable companions to your personal computer, not a replacement, and must be hooked up by a wire or wireless communication.
What you create on a PDA can easily be downloaded into your PC. PDAs are good for people on the go who don’t want to lug around a laptop. PDAs are made by U.S. Robotics, Palm, Casio, Apple Computer, Sony, and Handspring.
6. Fax/modem card.
For less than $100, you can buy a modem/fax card that you can put into your PC. This dual- function device allows you to send and receive faxes, e-mail, and computer files. You need to leave your PC turned on to enjoy the benefits of a fax/modem card.
7. Wireless modems.
Another technology to consider is wireless communications devices, which transmit information to the nearest radio tower, then rely on land lines to connect a provider who relays the information to the client’s database.
This works well when you have lots of sales reps on the road who need to place orders with a quick turnaround.