cloud computing

By Rieva Lesonsky

After a winter most of us would like to forget, spring is here. But with the good, comes the bad—it’s time for a little spring cleaning, or to spruce up your small business. Considering how fast business is evolving, this is going to take more than the traditional broom and dustpan.

If you, like many small business owners, have been reluctant to invest in new technologies dues to the after-effects of the Great Recession, this is the time to finally get moving and create and implement digital priorities. Here are some tasks you need to put on your spring cleaning checklist:

Back up important files and clean the inbox. Small business owners should make it a priority to back up their files to an external hard drive or to the cloud, where solutions like Carbonite and MozyPro offer affordable options.

Also, set aside time to delete old emails and archive important ones. A clean inbox simplifies locating specific email chains and opens space on the company server.

Update old tech. Upgrading outdated technology, whether it be the operating system, laptop or mobile device, is critical to ensuring the maximum efficiency, security and mobility of your small business. Investing in cloud also can reduce costs (IT, real estate and otherwise) and alleviate issues from patching together disparate hardware and software technology. With the upcoming end-of-service for Microsoft Windows XP on April 8, it’s a good reminder to ensure not only your hardware, but software and operating systems are up-to-date for optimal performance.

Consider going paperless. A paperless workspace reduces office clutter and minimizes the time small business owners will spend on spring cleaning. Cloud-based file storage solutions such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft’s OneDrive (replacing SkyDrive) are affordable options for small businesses to maintain and organize critical business documents throughout the year.

Embrace mobile tech. If your business is not mobile-friendly, you are likely losing revenue opportunities. According to new research from hibu, SMBs that don’t accept mobile payments could be losing out on as much as $1 trillion in annual revenues.

The study highlights the paradox of small business and mobile technology: While the SMB owners themselves predict mobile sales will grow an astounding 630 percent this year, 91 percent of them don’t have mobile-optimized websites. What’s worse is only 15 percent plan to upgrade and optimize their sites, which is a prescription for failure.

Clean up, literally. Your hardware and peripherals are likely much dirtier than you think. Take some time to clean your keyboards (use compressed air), monitor screens and check the batteries in your mouse or wireless keyboards.

Check your printer as well. Do all the parts move smoothly? Are you up-to-date on manufacturers’ updates? Is the printer free of paper bits? Make sure you have extra cartridges on hand, so you’re never caught short without ink.

Tighten your security. You may think your business is too small for hackers to target, but you’re wrong. All businesses, no matter their size, make tempting targets for the bad guys, but according to the latest Internet Security Threat Report from Symantec, in 2012 (2013 numbers are not yet available), “The largest growth area for targeted attacks was businesses with fewer than 250 employees.” In fact 31 percent of all attacks targeted these sized businesses.

What do attackers want from companies as small as yours? Think about the valuable information you have, particularly customer lists, contact information and credit card or other sensitive data. And while the payoff is likely bigger when they attack bigger businesses, the fact is it’s easier to hack into businesses like yours, since you’ve very likely not kept your cybersecurity up-to-date. You need to make sure you install the latest security patches and updates as soon as they become available to keep attackers from breaking into your system.