Keeping Your Small Business State Of The Art on The Cheap

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No matter how small your business, it is almost impossible today to run it efficiently without the benefit of high tech tools. Mobile phones, once considered the tool of the wealthy and powerful, have become essential, as anyone who has tried to find a pay telephone in an emergency can attest. The days of keeping customer contact information in a physical address book or on a Rolodex™ are long past. And for both service and supply businesses, a reliable computer system offers features that no physical file, accounts, or inventory system can provide.

The downside to our reliance upon high-tech tools is that every one of them will eventually fail and have to be repaired or replaced. Granted, barring the business being struck by fire, flood, or some other catastrophe, the more antiquated systems for communicating and record keeping were not only cheap, but pretty reliable as well, even if they lacked the capabilities upon which businesses of all sizes have come to depend. Their high-tech counterparts, on the other hand, can prove to be quite expensive, especially if you heed the sales departments’ advice to buy the latest and greatest equipment, with all the bells and whistles included.

Truth is, you don’t need to spend your business into the red in order to convert from the old ways or upgrade your existing equipment. With just few informed decisions, you can keep your business humming along for pennies on the dollar when compared to the top of the line equipment that companies would prefer to have you buy.

Know your equipment requirements

A new basic computer from a well-established manufacturer can easily cost well over £1,000, with peripherals such as printers, scanners, and software costing as much as or more than the computer itself. But unless your business specialises in creating or editing videos or high-quality music files, there is simply no need for the marginally better performance of a high-end system. Even massive spreadsheet, database, and accounting programs can be run quite efficiently on two or three-year-old technology. And a system that was state of the art only two years ago will perform just as well as that new powerhouse.

Buy according to your requirements, rather than to a sales promotion

Consider buying manufacturer-certified refurbished brand name equipment in lieu of new, as the same system that cost £1,000 a couple of years ago can be purchased in refurbished form for a couple hundred pounds or less. The same holds even more true of notebook computers than of desktops.

Check the warranty

If you are concerned about whether the refurbished computer will be reliable, check the warranty. A computer or notebook that has been refurbished by a reputable, manufacturer-certified refurbishing company, or by the original manufacturer itself, will inevitably have a warranty that should cover you well past the point where it might be prone to failure. Reputable refurbishing companies, like the manufacturers themselves, can’t afford to sell junk, and are as a rule quite forthright in their customer service.

If your old computer dies

We’ve all experienced the torment of a relied-upon piece of equipment dying a rapid death, just when we need it most. If you are smart (and have learned first-hand the cost of not being smart in the past), you will have backed up all your critical data on an external drive or the cloud, so you won’t have to start over from ground zero. The best backup software products are those that allow you to make a complete disk image, which will allow you to set up a new computer to function exactly like the old one, with contacts, documents, settings, and most software applications transferred to the new machine. The choice that will face you when the computer stops working is, Do I repair the equipment or replace it?

Repair – Most people, especially those who lack technical expertise, will consider repairing the old computer, primarily due to the cost of replacing it. In many if not most cases, this is a false economy, especially for the business user. Hiring a qualified technician to perform diagnostics and repairs on an old computer could well cost you more than replacing it with a more capable piece of equipment, like those mentioned above. While there are a number of less-expensive computer repair businesses, they are able to charge less because they pay their technicians less. If you’re like most business owners, you will want the most capable people available working on such a crucial tool for your business. If you are considering repairing the computer, get a firm quote as to the cost to diagnose and apply suggested repairs before making your decision.

Replace – There are several ways to purchase that new computer, such as through auction sites like eBay, direct from manufacturers, or from manufacturer-certified refurbishing company websites. If you lack in-house personnel who are capable of setting up the new computer and transferring settings and files from your backup, you might need to hire a technician to set it up for you. At any rate, the cost of setting up a new computer will be significantly less than the cost of diagnosing and troubleshooting the older one. Whether you purchase a new, name brand computer or a refurbished, you will have to decide how you want to pay for it.

– Purchase outright – This will always be the most economical method, though you might be looking at a significant expense if you also have to purchase peripherals and/or replacement software. Most major software developers will allow you to reinstall their applications on a replacement computer without penalty. If you lack sufficient cash or credit card balance to purchase outright, you might consider seeking out a financing plan. Most large retailers offer some form of in-house financing, but you will probably be able to find independent lending institutions who will offer better terms and/or a lower interest rate.

– Lease or rent to own – If you lack the available cash, you might be tempted to obtain the replacement through an equipment leasing or rent-to-own company. Purchasing this way is quite convenient, and frees you up from having to plunk down a significant sum all at once, but the final cost will always be much greater than if you purchased the equipment outright. One advantage to leasing or rent-to-own is that you will usually be provided with technical support and repair warranties for the duration of the agreement. Just be certain to check around online and with previous customers to see how well the company’s technical support performs.

By being realistic in your expectations and requirements, and narrowing your shopping to meet those criteria rather than marketing hype, you should be able to get the technical side of your operations back online in short order, and for a reasonable cost. And by maintaining good, current backups, you should be able to get back up and running without losing any of your important information. In today’s business world, that information is likely to be even more valuable to your business than your inventory or other equipment.

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