The Cloud, VoIP, Mifi, SaaS – busting the technology jargon for today’s small businesses

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As a small business, you’re probably used to being told what you have to do in order to survive and succeed. Since the day you started, you’ve been told to adapt, change and compete – and do it all more efficiently, more cost-effectively and more ingeniously than anyone else.

You’re inundated with ‘helpful’ hints and tips on how to revolutionise your small office technology, which leave you none the wiser and with a long list of abbreviations to look up – when you have a moment.

Don’t be put off by the techie terms – you deserve to benefit from these clever concepts just as much as those with time to wade through the jargon. So here’s a quick guide to four incredibly important and very useful services that could take your small business to the next level.

The Cloud
In a nutshell – This term may have become as nebulous as its namesake, but for clarity’s sake, the cloud is a centralised location in which data can be stored online.

Why should you care? – Because centrally storing practically everything that used to require some form of hardware – telephony, desktop services, emails, security – in a cloud-based system will not only save your business money and time, but it will improve the way your employees interact with each other and with your customer base. Meanwhile, you can hand over management of your IT system to a third party provider and concentrate on the job at hand.

In a nutshell – This one’s easy. Make calls over the Internet.

Why should you care? – All you need is the Internet, so all you’re paying for is your broadband connection. Thanks to Voice over Internet Protocol, to give it its full name, your business’ calls are converted to data sent over the web like any other data. No landlines necessary. A small business VoIP system offers all the nut, bolts and fancy bits used by major corporations, in a surprisingly inexpensive and user-friendly package.

In a nutshell – This is wireless mobile broadband. You’ve probably heard of the wonderfully named dongles, which create a localised signal wherever you are – well Mifi is the same concept, except it allows for multiple users accessing the signal.

Why should you care? – As a small business, a mobile Internet connection can be extremely useful. You don’t have to plug a Mifi unit into a computer, so you can place it wherever you like in your office, plus up to five users can access the signal at any one time.

In a nutshell – Here’s one to cross off your abbreviation list – Software as a Service. You’re already familiar with this concept, and you might not even realise it. Google and Twitter are just two examples of applications you can access over the web on any Internet enabled device.

Why should you care? – You no longer have to buy software, install it or worry about licenses. Instead, you’re effectively subscribing to your software, which is a lot cheaper and involves no upfront investment. The software available covers all your small business needs, from accounting to CRM and communications, and is accessible, scalable and customisable.

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