Technology for small business: the best solutions to improve revenues



In order to effectively compete with larger corporations, small business owners are having to rely upon technology more often that ever. The need to increase productivity and to reduce task-completing times has become critical to small businesses everywhere, and portability is one of the key components of that trend. For this edition of LL Focus, we interviewed experts in the computer technology field and asked them recommend some cost-effective technology for burgeoning small businesses. These professionals shared with us very valuable information of how the newest technology is adding mobility to small businesses and how this can help to maximize productivity, and what areas small businesses should invest most of their resources in order to improve their profits, and they even told us which personal digital assistant (PDA) they rely upon in their daily lives to keep up with their responsibilities. We urge you to read what they had to say, and we strongly recommend that you take it into consideration when purchasing new technology.

Microsoft www.microsoft.com

Alejandra Calatayud General Manager, New York, New Jersey Area, Small and Mid-Market Solutions & Partners

What PDA model do you like best? Why?

I use a Samsung i600 Smartphone. Microsoft Smartphones work well for me as they're no larger than the average cell phone, only require one hand, and can sync with my desktop, I can also easily sync with my email, contacts and calendar when I am on the road. This makes if very easy for me to stay connected with my business while I am traveling and visiting customers and partners. I can even do instant messaging and I sometimes log to the internet from my smartphone to look for maps or directions or to research the website of the organization I am on my way to visit.

In your opinion, how is the newest technology adding mobility to small businesses and how can this help to improve their profits?

Tablet PCs and other mobile technologies are great, but they're not the whole story. About 80 percent of all business data has elements that business mapping software can use to help with tasks such as locating customers by sales territory, designing efficient delivery routes, and discovering sales risks and opportunities. For instance, Microsoft MapPoint can take numbers from an Excel spreadsheet and turn them into a visual picture to help see trends that would have been hard to spot otherwise, helping you better anticipate customer needs; improve customer contact; and track marketing efforts and resulting sales. For any small business with mobile workers, the combination of the two technologies can deliver immediate return on investment.

In what areas should small business invest most resources in order to maximize their productivity?

Knowing how to fully utilize what you may already have invested in is likely going to have the greatest impact--the basic Microsoft Office Suite, assuming you're running the most current version, can be extraordinarily powerful in a small business setting. Proficiency with Outlook, in particular, can save hours if a worker knows how to use it properly.

Proper planning and investment in the backend infrastructure can also parlay into great value. For instance, a one stop solution like Small Business Server 2003 can provide a small company with email, team collaboration, security and a database solution without the complications of separate units. SBS 2003 includes Exchange Server 2003 which provides the ability to use Active Sync with Exchange for your mobile users for their smartphones, PocketPC phones and even 3rd party vendors such as Palm Treos or Symbian phones through a licensing agreement with Microsoft and Palm and Symbian.

Samsung
i600 Smartphone
Suggested Retail Price:
$499.99


GENERAL
Dimensions (W x D x H)2.1 in x 0.9 in x 3.5 in
Weight5 oz
ColorUp to 96h Standby time


MEMORY
Installed RAM 32 MB


PROCESSOR
Processor 200 MHz


POWER
Battery installed 1 Lithium ion
Battery instated (max) 1 Lithium ion
Max supported batteries 1
Talk time 150 min


EXPANSION / CONNECTIVITY
Port / Connector Type: Interface 1, 1
Expansion slot(s) total (free) 1 SD Memory Card
Total free slots 1


PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS
Width 2.1 in
Depth 0.9 in
Height 3.5 in


Compuware www.compuware.com

Luis C. Gasca Regional Sales Support Manager, Compuware Corporation

What PDA model do you like best? Why?

I love my Treo 600. I think its the most practical smartphone--or PDA with built-in mobile phone--for its compact size, easy to use input keyboard, and solid operating system with tons of available applications. It allows me to carry the critical information 1 need without having to be in front of my laptop. I can remain communicated via email, or browse the web. It's the ideal tool for business travelers.

In your opinion, how is the newest technology adding mobility to small businesses and how can this help to maximize their productivity?

I think of mobility as the ability to conduct your business anywhere, anytime. Today's technology offers a wide variety of solutions to many different mobility needs depending on your business. One of the areas that stand out to address mobility is wireless technology. Businesses can rely on smartphones, handhelds and tablet PCs with integrated wireless processors, Wi-Fi networks, GPS systems, and a growing number of packaged software to support wireless connectivity. Most likely, small companies will not be able to keep up with the pace, but that's okay. Maximizing productivity is not just about using the latest in technology, but effectively using the solutions that meet the specific needs of a small company, especially if these solutions have a proven market record.

In what areas should small business invest most resources in order to improve their profits?

In today's economy, it is crucial to stay focused on investing in avenue generating solutions and effectively using technology and resources to positively influence the bottom line. For instance, many small businesses are not able to have a dedicated IT staff, and may not need to. But partnering with the right solutions vendor or consulting firm will highly increase the potential to improve margins, and recognize better profits. One of the challenges however, is for the ability of these solutions to demonstrate return on investment (ROI), and for the solutions' vendors to bring added value to the business.

Palm One
Treo 600 GSM
Suggested Retail Price:
$499.99

GENERAL
Carrier                               AT&T Wireless
Multi-use / PDA phone                 no
Built-in devices                      Camera, Antenna,
                                      Display
Dimensions (W x D x H)                2.4 in x 0.9 in x 4.4 in
Band/mode                             GSM 850/900/1800/
                                      1900 Quadband)
Weight                                5.9 oz
Color                                 Silver
Packaged contents                     Protection bag,
                                      Hands-free headset
Standby time                          Up to 240 h
Localization                          Europe
Bluetooth enabled                     no
International compatibility           Yes
Display Languages                     English
included accessories                  Lithium Ion battery,
                                      compact wall
                                      charger,
                                      Stylus, slipcase, US8
                                      hotsyric cable

MEMORY
Installed RAM                         32 MB
Max supported RAM                     32MB

PROCESSOR
Processor                             Texas Instruments
                                      144 MHz

POWER
Battery installed                     1 Lithium ion
Battery installed (max)               1 Lithium ion
Max supported batteries               1
Talk time                             240 min
Power supply device                   Power adapter
                                      External
Voltage required                      AC 100/220 V [+ or -] 10%
Power device frequency required       50/60 Hz
Power device type                     Power adapter
power device form factor              External

EXPANSION / CONNECTIVITY
Wireless connectivity                 IrDA
Connectivity device(s) included       Docking cradle
Port / Connector Type: interface      1USB, 1Headset
Port(s) Total (Free) / Connector
Type: Free Qty                        1
Connector Provided                    4 pin USB Type A,
                                      Sub-mini phone
                                      stereo 2.5 mm
Expansion slot(s) total (free)        1SD Memory Card
Total free slots                      1
Cable(s) included                     1 x USB cable

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS
Body Color                            Silver
Width                                 2.4 In
Depth                                 0.9 in
Height                                4.4 in
Antenna                               Fixed-length


CompUSA www.compusa.com

Javier Larraza EVP Corporate Services and CFO, CompUSA Inc.

What PDA model do you like best? Why?

Personally, [I like] the Blackberry. I've also heard from many of our customers the Treo. I like the Blackberry because you have voice and data in the same device. Actually, my emails hit the Blackberry first and later my PC. That fast! You can address questions immediately while you are on the road and, if in a meeting, you don't have to wait to contact somebody, you just go and shoot him an email, an SMS or a PIN and, voila! So now, instead of leaving meetings with a "to do list", you leave meetings with nothing on your "to do list". You also receive meeting requests and can reply right away without worrying about synchronizing 30 devices at night. As you can tell, it has been for me by far the best productivity tool I'm using.

In your opinion, how is the newest technology adding mobility to small businesses and how can this help to maximize their productivity?

We talk about things being "online": a laptop, a PDA, a cell phone ... What we are realizing now is that new technologies are making people be online. You can make faster decisions, you can take quicker actions, you are networked with your team members, vendors and customers and nothing can make you more productive than being closer to them. At CompUSA we are very focused on providing this technology solutions to small businesses, it is not only [what comes in] the "box", it is the technical training, the technical service, the integrated solution so small businesses can do much more with very affordable technology solutions.

In what areas should small business invest most resources in order to improve their profits?

[They should invest] in the areas that make them become closer to their customers' needs. One clear area here is technology, but not technology for the sake of using cool devices; technology that allows the small business to address quickly what the customer wants. And within the technology horizon, anything that has to do with mobility and typically small business need a lot of mobility. It represents a key area to invest so you can cash in good future profits.

Blackberry
7210
Suggested Retail Price:
$499.99

GENERAL
Carrier                               AT&T
Multi-use / PDA phone                 Yes
Cellular technology                   GSM
Dimensions (W x D x H)                2.9 in x 0.8 in x 4.4 in
Band/mode                             GSM 900/1900
Weight                                4.8 oz
Standby time                          240 h
Bluetooth enabled                     No
International compatibility           No
Display Languages                     None
included accessories                  2 USB data cables,
                                      Belt holster, Hands-free
                                      headset, Lithium
                                      Ion battery
                                      international
                                      compact wall charger

MEMORY
Installed ROM                         16 MB

POWER
Battery installed                     1 Lithium ion
Battery installed (max)               1 Lithium ion
Talk time                             240 min

EXPANSION / CONNECTIVITY
Port/Connector Type: Interface        1, 1
Cable(s) included                     1 x

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS
Body Color                            Black
Cover themes / Designs                No
Width                                 2.9 in
Depth                                 0.8 in
Height                                4.4 in
Antenna                               Retractable


Hewlett Packard
www.hp.com

Eric Kilponen Director of product marketing, handheld division, HP

What PDA model do you like best? Why?

As I am often on the road myself, I enjoy the flexibility that iPAQ handhelds offer, particularly the HP iPAQ h6315. Since the h6315 has built-in GSM/GPRS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless technologies, all my communication needs can be met with one device. If I desire, I can have high-speed access to the Internet, check and send email, make phone calls and text message, all at the same time. It absolutely is a useful tool for work but I can also listen to downloaded music or watch videos during my downtime when I travel. I believe this type of versatility will be a necessity for mobile devices in the future.

In your opinion, how is the newest technology adding mobility to small businesses and how can this help to improve their profits?

HP knows small businesses because we have expansive expertise and targeted offerings to meet their unique demands. To support the individual needs of small businesses, HP created the PartnerONE program, a network of local, responsive experts who can offer customized solutions and integrated services to assist in implementing technology that can help companies manage and grow their business. Additionally, no other company spans the mobility spectrum like HP--from the network infrastructure that powers the world's leading telecom companies, to the wireless solutions and services in business, to the devices people use.

Specifically, regarding handhelds, the technologies behind these devices have advanced considerably in the past few years and now they have become powerful mobile computing de'4ces as well as being extremely portable. Workers can stay in touch and be productive virtually anywhere at anytime. As a communications tool, handhelds allow users to send, receive email or other types of messages while on the go. Handhelds enable the workforce to be more mobile, key for sales teams. This can include running sales or vertical focused applications, linking up live with company data applications remotely, actively create/edit documents on the road and surf the Internet.

In what areas should small business invest most resources in order to maximize their productivity?

Security and manageability will continue to be areas that need attention. Businesses of all sizes are looking for ways to work more efficiently and increase productivity in or out of the office--an especially important need as workforces are increasingly becoming more mobile in efforts to reach out to new business opportunities. The growing importance for mobility demands increased protection for both sensitive corporate data and mobile devices as well as brings about the need for management tools. Keeping this in mind, HP provides solutions for essential business communication all the while ensuring strong mobile security and easy manageability.

When on the go, your business critical hardware is more at risk for theft and loss, and once your notebook or iPAQ is out of your control, sensitive company and personal data is vulnerable. HP has developed an end-to-end capability beginning with HP ProtectTools, a line of security products that provide safer ways to stay in control and secure data while mobile so businesses can reduce technical and financial risks. Beyond protecting the data on the device, HP's partnership with CREDANT Technologies brings centralized policy definition and creation for security manageability.

With HP ProtectTools built into HP's business notebooks and handhelds, workers can password protect their mobile devices and encrypt its data, so even if it is lost or stolen, the information on it is secure. Some iPAQ handhelds even feature biometric fingerprint readers to further secure the authentication and access process.

HP ProtectTools is cost-effective and easy to administer. Businesses can quickly deploy comprehensive centrally defined security policies that protect their mobile users, devices and data--minimize security risk and restrict application use, disable peripherals, and prevent the use of communication ports and storage cards. HP ProtectTools also offers an elegant upgrade path so that companies can rest easy knowing that future security and management requirements can be met as they expand the use of mobile and wireless computing throughout their organization.

HP
iPAQ h6315
Suggested Retail Price:
$599.99

GENERAL
Built in devices                      Camera, Antenna,
                                      Display
Weight                                6.7 oz
Color                                 Silver
Included expansion base(s)            Docking cradle
Packaged contents                     Carrying case,
                                      Hands-free headset
Localization                          English: United States

MEMORY
installed RAM                         64 MB
technology                            SDRAM
Installed ROM                         64 MB Rash

PROCESSOR
Processor                             Texas Instruments
                                      200 MHzOMAP1510

EXPANSION / CONNECTIVITY
Wireless connectivity                 IrDA, Bluetooth, IEEE
                                      802.11b
Port(s) Total (Free) / Connector
Type: Free Qty                        1, 1, 1
Expansion slot(s) total (free)        1 SD Memory Card
Total free slots                      1
Cable(s) included                     1 x AC adapter, 1 x

POWER
Battery installed                     1 Lithium ion
Max supported batteries               1
Power supply device                   Power adapter
                                      External
Voltage required                      AC 100/240 V
Power device frequency required       50/60 HZ

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS FOR PC
CONNECTION
interface devices                     USB port

ENVIRONMENTAL PARAMETERS
Operating humidity range              0-90%


BITAM, Inc. www.bitam.com

Juan G. Rolon US Consulting Manager, BITAM Inc.

What PDA model do you like best? Why?

I use a Dell Axim. In general, I like pocket PCs with Microsoft operating systems because they allow me to share documents and applications with my computer at home and/or work.

In your opinion, how is the newest technology adding mobility to small businesses and how can this help to maximize their productivity?

Wireless networks and wireless devices, along with al the wireless infrastructure existing all across residential and commercial environments allow small businesses to have more flexibility when it comes to acquisition, development and use of technology for their commercial purposes. As a small business entrepreneur, mobility allows you to reach your customers regardless of their physical locations. These technologies also allow for an increase in productivity since you can be communicated with customers, providers and your own team from airports, coffee shops, and a variety of locations, where all these wireless access hubs are available.

In what areas should small business invest most resources in order to improve their profits?

In my opinion, a small business mostly invests its resources to improve profits in research and development to improve the quality of their products and/or services, and in marketing, to enable the potential consumers to learn about their products and/or services.

Dell
Axim
Suggested Retail
Price: $299.00

GENERAL
Built in devices                      Antenna, Display
Weight                                4.9 oz
Color                                 Silver
Included expansion base(s)            Docking cradle
Packaged contents                     Carrying case

MEMORY
Installed RAM                         64 MB
RAM technology                        SDRAM
Installed ROM                         64 MB Flash

OPERATING SYSTEM /SOFTWARE
OS provided                           Microsoft Windows
                                      Mobile 2003 Second
                                      Edition
Software included                     Inbox, Calendar,
                                      Contacts, Microsoft
                                      Pocket Word,
                                      Microsoft Pocket
                                      Excel, Microsoft
                                      ActiveSync 3.7.1

MEMORY
Installed RAM                         64 MB
RAM technology                        SDRAM
Installed ROM                         64 MB Rash

PROCESSOR
Processor                             Intel 624 MHzXscale

INPUT DEVICE
Input device type                     Stylus, Touch-screen,
                                      5-way navigation
                                      button

AUDIO
Audio input type                      Microphone
Audio output type                     Speaker(s)
Voice recording capability            Yes

DISPLAY
Display type                          3.5 in TFT active
                                      matrix
Color support                         16-bit (64K colors)
Max resolution                        240 x 320

EXPANSION / CONNECTIVITY
Wireless connectivity                 IrDa, Bluetooth, IEEE
                                      802.11b
Expansion slot(s) total (free)        1 SD Memory Card
Cable(s) included                     1 x USB cable

POWER
Battery installed (max)               1 Lithium ion
Power supply device                   Power adapter

WARRANTY
Service / Support Details             1 year Limited
                                      warranty Replacement
Service & support type                1 year warranty



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