By Rieva Lesonsky

Technology makes our lives as small business owners easier in many ways. But in others, it seems to add complications and clutter. It’s still early enough in the New Year to get your technology in order so you’re ready to grow in 2016. To help, Staples is a go-to resource for tech needs. They’ve created a Less List for Business with great, low prices on 28 essentials businesses need (including technology to start 2016 right). Here are 6 tech steps every small business owner should take.

  1. Assess your existing hardware. Computers become obsolete quickly. Are you still working with outdated machines? Are you or your employees due for an upgrade? Could your employees benefit from laptops rather than desktop computers, or from larger monitors for their desktops? Ask employees if they’re facing performance issues such as slow-running computers or frequent crashes. In many cases, adding storage such as external hard drives can clear up the problems. Get your computers in tip-top shape, and you’ll have the edge over your competitors.  Less List Solution: HP Desktop, Dell Monitor, Logitech Mouse, Epson Printer
  2. Review your mobile capabilities and needs. Outfitting yourself and/or your employees with tablets and smartphones can really power up your productivity. With the right mobile device in hand, you can be more responsive to customers wherever you are, and get more work done outside the office, which gives you more flexibility. Mobile devices are especially useful for employees who spend a lot of time on the road, such as delivery drivers or salespeople. To get the most from your new devices, be sure to pick up the necessary accessories, such as headsets, keyboards and chargers.
  3. Assess your current software. When different people in the same company are running different versions of critical software, problems arise. You may struggle with file incompatibility or have problems viewing or opening attachments. In addition, out-of-date software sends prospects and customers the message that your business is behind the times. If necessary, work with an IT consultant to determine what software will best serve your needs, and what hardware is required to run it efficiently. The new Staples Tech Services offering includes mobile phone repair and comes with a Next Day Guarantee on many services to quickly and correctly fix tech issues and help keep your small business running smoothly.
  4. Protect your data. Data security, viruses and hacks are real concerns for small business owners. Small businesses are disproportionately vulnerable to cyber crime because they typically have fewer protections in place. Make sure your business’s computers, devices and network are protected with antivirus software, firewalls and data encryption. If employees use company mobile devices or access company data or networks from outside the office, remind them to follow proper security precautions. Finally, don’t forget about physical data. An industrial-grade shredder can make short work of sensitive documents that you’re discarding, but don’t want to fall into the wrong hands. Be sure to visit Staples Tech services to get more information.
  5. Organize your data. Every small business still needs to print documents from time to time. However, you can also stay organized by scanning and digitizing documents for safekeeping. Even if you save the paper copies, storing digital versions creates a backup and allows you to access the information from anywhere if you store it in the cloud. Be sure you create an easy-to-understand system for categories and, naming and storing data, so that everyone can find it when it’s needed.
  6. Get help quickly. Small businesses know all too well when they experience a tech issue it’s critical to get help as quickly as possible. In fact a recent survey from Staples revealed 76 percent of small business leaders would find guaranteed next day service for technology issues valuable. If that’s important to you (I know it’s important to my small business) check out Staples Tech Services with the new Next Day Guarantee, which delivers fast, quality solutions, including tech repairs, PC set up, data transfer, software upgrades, virus removal and more. The Next Day Guarantee ensures that laptops brought into Staples stores by 12 Noon will be serviced by 5PM the next day—or the repairs are free (excluding hardware repairs, unbootable PCs, off-premise services and subject to store hours).

Take these simple six steps to put your technology in order, and you and your team will be well-prepared to conquer 2016.

Photos courtesy: Annette Joseph, on behalf of Staples

This post was sponsored by Staples. Get back to business with Staplesshop Staples Less List for huge savings on great products.