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Tools to help SMEs run business better in 2012

We asked a variety of suppliers what products and services they have to offer SMEs this year to help them work smarter.

With everyone trying to sell you something, how do you deicde what you do and don’t need and what to prioritise?

Gary Edstein, senior vice president Oceania, DHL Express

New Year, new targets and everyone is seeking new business. This is true for all people in business and because your business is also a customer to another business somewhere, you’ll most likely be targeted by companies keen to sell you the newest and best of something. The best way to avoid feeling overwhelmed is to:

Know your business

Know your targets for 2012 and the best strategy that will get you there and find a service or product that will support you in reaching your targets.

Create a niche

When starting out, don’t try to be all things to everyone. Concentrate your efforts on serving a niche market efficiently and cost effectively and pick and choose suppliers who can help you further promote your niche offering.

Be flexible

Work with suppliers who are interested in your business and see you not just as a customer, but a business partner. Find out about the support services they provide and understand how flexible they are prepared to be in their product/service offering.

Ask questions

Find out who a supplier’s customers are and ask them questions about the product/service you’re considering. Sometimes talking to an existing customer is the best way to understand the pros/cons of a certain product/service.

John Papandis, head of PR, Trend Micro

Mobility is fast taking hold among SMBs, with many businesses now equipping employees with smartphones and tablets, or allowing them to bring in their own devices. However, as these advanced mobile devices become the preferred computing devices among consumers and business users, they also present a number of data protection hurdles.  Mobility is the new frontier for cybercriminals and these devices are becoming the preferred targets for malware, hackers and other cyber threats.

Businesses need to ensure their data is adequately protected. Failure to do so could result in serious financial and reputational damage and can affect a company’s ability to operate. Most importantly, employees must be mindful of their mobile working habits. For example, passwords should be used to protect all devices – including smartphones, tablets and laptops – and only trusted Wi-Fi networks should be used.

Users can also arm themselves against mobile threats by being wary of what they download from app stores. They can also take care to only access legitimate social networking sites and only divulge information to known and trusted contacts.

In addition, companies should install the latest security software designed specifically to protect mobile devices from loss, malicious apps, and web threats. These solutions can block infected apps from installing and stealing personal information. The software also protects users from online threats like banking scams, and stops unwanted calls and text messages.

Should the device get lost or stolen, the user can locate the device, trigger an alarm, remotely lock it, or even wipe the device clean to protect personal information.

David Goad, managing  director, eSavvy

After working close to 23 years in and around business applications as both a consumer and a seller of these solutions I’ve come to a few conclusions around how people buy business applications and the mistakes they make. By far the most commons mistakes when evaluating business applications are:

  • Too much focus on the degree of fit: People often worry about ticking all the boxes. The reality is that 20 percent of requirements can generate 80 percent of the work in deploying a system. It’s not really how many boxes you’ve ticked but the effort involved in achieving your priority requirements.
  • Expecting quality cost estimates when giving limited information: Purchasers are often surprised when the services price estimates vary considerably from one vendor to the next. Often this is because the vendors haven’t made the same assumptions when coming up with those estimates.  The more information you can give them the better.
  • Comparing apples and oranges: Cost/price estimates can be impacted by a number of soft variables such as the number of phases in the project, how much you plan on doing yourself and the level of documentation you expect. You should make these soft variables clear to any vendor who is bidding on your project.

Avoiding these more common pitfalls when moving through your business application selection process will definitely give you a better result!

Robbie Upcroft, SMB sales manager, McAfee

In response to a growing demand for simpler security solutions, McAfee recently launched McAfee SMB Endpoint Protection Essentials, which provides flexible endpoint protection that can be deployed and managed in a manner unique to the company’s needs and budget. The new solution includes anti-virus, anti-spyware, desktop firewall, and McAfee SiteAdvisor Web site safety ratings. McAfee SMB Endpoint Protection Essentials allows small businesses to have the freedom to deploy security management for their endpoints on-premises, from the cloud or both by purchasing a single product.

McAfee SMB Endpoint Protection Essentials offers:

  • Tailored Pricing: Made for the plug-and-play world of the SMB, the solution features the “must have” tools providing essential security at a SMB friendly price.
  • Flexible deployment: Small businesses can purchase endpoint protection without worrying about how their changing business circumstances or growth will impact their security product decision.
  • Ease of management: A single management console allows users to view all their managed endpoint protection services. This saves time and effort for resource and time constrained IT personnel.
  • Complete endpoint protection: Endpoint protection represents a must-have security for any small business in one convenient package especially for SMBs.

Sam Zavaglia, Field Applications Senior Engineer, Seagate Technology

Network attached storage (NAS) is an external storage unit that plugs directly into your network, capturing and storing critical business data across all file formats from both Mac and PC.

As businesses grow, the volume of data produced grows exponentially. This precious data can be collected on USB flash drives, CDs, in email attachments, desktops and laptops. While all these are useful in their own right, such a decentralised approach to storage can lead to security risks and the loss of business critical data.

A system such as Seagate’s BlackArmor NAS is a neat solution designed specifically for SMEs. It delivers security, accessibility and reliability, while also centralising files to make things easy to find, whether your team is in the office, working from home or on the road.

Different systems offer different access, backup and recovery features, but the key is to select a user friendly, highly reliable NAS solution that delivers the security and efficiency to support your business growth.

What is it? A dedicated storage device with its own operating system and processor that is plugged into the corporate network to provide access to multiple users.

How users connect to it: Over the network via an Ethernet cable. Users see NAS as an additional drive on their computer.

Setup and management: Just plug and play into the network. Uses its own simple browser interface for setup. NAS can also connect over  WiFi (through a router).

Ability to share data among others: Access over the network and web using a simple management interface.

Setup and operating costs: Low-to-medium.

Martin Russell, owner, Martin Print

As we hurtle bravely into the thrilling new business landscape of 2012, perhaps right now is the perfect time to start considering some of the increasingly inventive ways of getting your crucial promotional messages across to a whole new audience.

In particular, I’m thinking of fresh and creative ways of proudly branding your business identity onto a wide new range of dynamic marketing products and gifts, which have the potential to be both funky and functional.

Of course, some of the more traditional marketing tools are as powerful now as they ever were, and it’s always a good idea to keep a fresh supply of business cards and brochures handy.

But how about treating your audience to something just a little out of the ordinary this year? Stylish and fun promotional freebies such as fridge magnets, drink coasters, car sign magnets, or even stubby holders, are just a few examples of the new wave of deliciously subtle but uniquely powerful promotional freebies at your disposal.

Whilst your customers will be surprised and delighted by a quirky but practical gift, you’ll be ensuring that your memorable branding and stunning business designs are going to be shared and absorbed throughout 2012… and beyond.