The technology components of a small business, an overview

This guide provides an overview of the technology components for a typical small business.

The guide is written for small business owners in mind, without assuming any technical knowledge.

The below diagram identifies thirty technology components for a small business.

Thirty is not a magic number, it just happens to be the result after producing the diagram!


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Green headings identify logical groups, and yellow headings represent specific technology components.

The following list provides a simple explanation of each technology component.

1. Smartphone

Smartphones are ubiquitous in daily life; thus a description seems unnecessary. For avoidance of doubt, since you can still buy a mobile phone for as little as $20/£15, a mobile phone becomes “smart” as soon as the screen and processor are capable of running useful applications. Any phone running Apple iOS, Google Android, or Windows Phone can be considered a smartphone.

2. Office phone

Office phone systems do not have the reception limitations of mobile phones. You can transfer calls, pickup calls that are ringing on a colleague’s phone, and many other useful features that support taking or receiving voice calls.

3. Conferencing

Conferencing includes video, voice or screen sharing, and is the only solution for more than two users to communicate. Solutions vary tremendously in features, cost and effectiveness.

4. Document, spreadsheet, presentation

Every business needs a computer program to read and edit documents. Spreadsheets are essential to users in finance roles, and sales and marketing is not complete without presentation programs.

5. Directory

A directory may be as simple as a document with peoples contact details, however better solutions exist if you want a single source for your office phone directory, smartphone directory, and email directory.

6. Specialist applications

Specialist application range from invoice and payroll systems, to industry specific applications such as Computer Aided Design, or stock picking systems in warehouses.

7. Email

We all know what email is, however there are many features available that small businesses do not know about, including; shared mailboxes for support teams, email encryption for sensitive communications, and email archiving for meeting regulatory requirements.

8. Instant Messaging

Instant Messaging is a real time communications tools that enables distributed teams to easily communicate in real-time, without the frustration of voicemail tag, or the latency related to email conversations.

9. Calendar

An effective calendar system that can be shared with colleagues, or even customers is essential for removing time wasting involved in scheduling meetings. Access to a calendar from various devices and from various location adds to this efficiency.

10. Online services

Services available via the Internet such as YouTube for video sharing and Skype for video calling are classic examples of online services. Online service options for small business cover everything from accounting systems, customer relationship management systems, document storage and even telephone systems. Online services shift the responsibility for the technology infrastructure required to delivery the service, with the service provider. This can be very attractive to a small business, however it is still prudent prudent to understand how your data is used and protected.

11. User access

If you do not centrally manage who has access to your technology systems and what level of permissions they have, you can be exposing your business to a risk. This risk could be malicious, for example destroying of business data, or it could be disruptive, for example, losing access to a system because no one can remember the required passwords. There are various systems available to help control this risk, and these are essential to small business.

12. Data storage

Every business generates data of some sort, and that data needs to be stored according to defined retention policies, and protected from corruption and disaster.

13. Technology equipment storage

Even with the availability of online services, every small business will find the need to store technology equipment on site. Depending on the type and amount of equipment this will require consideration to cooling, security, power and dust control.

14. Internet connection

Dependency on the Internet for communications and online services means Internet connectivity is a critical business service. Business grade Internet connections include better availability and better repair times when compared to residential connections. Options are also available for dual connections that provide redundancy in the event of that either connection has a service disruption.

15. Wired computer network

Wired computer network uses equipment called switches and routers. When combined with data cabling (see later in this list) a wired network provides the minimum physical connectivity for computers and other devices such as printers and phones to connect to each other. Wired networks do not have the interference susceptibility and throughput variations that can existing with wireless networks (see later in this list).

16. Local application servers

As mentioned earlier in this listing, online services provide applications via the Internet, including accounting and document storage services. Applications can also be run on local application servers. Servers are just a computer that is tailored for providing multiple users with access to the same services or applications. Local application servers can have various advantages in terms of security, performance and availability.

17. Wireless computer network

Wireless access points allow computers and other devices such as printers to connect to each other without the same physical cable needs of wired computer networks. Wireless access points have a finite range, thus multiple access points are required to cover larger areas.

18. Print, scan, fax

There are almost limitless options available for devices that print, scan, or fax. Read more in our buyer’s guide.

19. Data cabling

Physical cabling is required for wireless data networks, and also for connecting Wireless Access Points with local dedicated network capacity. Audio visual systems such as presentation display or ceiling mounted speakers also require cabling.

20. Security system

Systems such as video monitoring and motion alarms provide a key part of an overall solution to managing the security and safety of staff and small business assets.

21. Desktop computer setup

A desktop computer setup includes consideration of not just the type of computer required, but also consideration of monitors, keyboard, mouse and, in the case of laptops or tablets, docking stations.

22. Room audio visual

Meeting rooms and reception areas often benefit from presentation displays. Room audio visuals also covers speakers, microphones (in the case of audio or video conferencing) and interface types for computer connectivity.

23. Technology management

Every item on this list requires some form of management to remain effective; fixing failed services, protecting against viruses, setting up service for new staff, or managing data backups is just a sample of the overall responsibilities required. As a small business owner, perhaps the most important decision you will make is determining which people you trust for managing your technology.

24. Website

Small business website needs vary tremendously depending on the purpose of the website (i.e. purely informational, or if store accepting payments). That said, every small business owner should understand how to measure the effectiveness of their website, how to optimise website visibility to search engines, and how to protect their website from corruption.

25. Communications

In the context of this guide, communication refers to the channels available for your customers to contact you. There is some overlap with the communications topics covered already such as smartphones, office phones, emails, conferencing, and instant messaging. Customer communications has different requirements to internal communications, for example, you may want to priorities customer communication over internal communications. There are also various benefits if you can understand how, when, and why customers are contacting you.

26. Remote work, access to applications

I have never met a small business that did not want access to the same applications and data when travelling compared to when located at the office. Access to online services is independent of your location, however access to application that you host on servers in your office usually requires specific configuration. In both cases, often considerations arise around using multiple devices, concurrent access to data as other users, and synchronisation of changes.

27. Laptop and tablets

Laptops and tablets provide well known portable computer options when compared to a non portable desktop computer. In general, for a given portability, as capability increases, price increases. In turn, for a given capability, as portability increases, price increases. This is just one consideration when selecting laptops, tablets or indeed desktop computers for your small business.

28. Offsite I.T. infrastructure

Infrastructure location is a key technology infrastructure strategy decision that you should consciously make. technology infrastructure requires, power, cooling, physical security, backup and disaster recovery options. Specialist technology hosting environments provide an option if both online services or technology infrastructure in your office is not suitable. The options available from infrastructure provided as a a service, to literally, a physical space with power and cooling to place your own server.

29. Disaster recovery site, isolated technology infrastructure

Disaster recovery provides, as much as practically possible, an isolated technology infrastructure that can be evoked in the even that your technology services become unavailable for an extended period. Disaster recovery strategies for technology need to be aligned to overall disaster recovery plans at a business level. There are companies who operate disaster recovery sites specifically to meet the needs of business.

30. Inter office connectivity

If you have multiple office location, which may include home based offices, then there are specific considerations for making technology services operate seamlessly between the locations. Through correct planning you can share technology infrastructure while also potentially providing backup and disaster recovery capabilities.

More information

Please see our other free guides, debaffle.net/guides, or our training courses debaffle.net/training, to learn more about the technology components identified in this guide.