Technology Challenges for Small Businesses

Technology’s ever changing ways can be confusing and overwhelming, especially when trying to manage a small business. Whether it be a health clinic, a law firm, an accounting firm, or human resources center; the technology problems are somewhat the same, and can be fairly easily and affordably resolved.

In the Health Care field, the introduction of Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) to replace the old ways of paper file and record keeping has prompted many larger healthcare clinics to make the switch to a paper-free system (60%), but the smaller (one to two person) practices had, for the most part, not followed suit. Part of this is to do with expense; it can be spendy to try and build a HIPAA/HITECH compliant data center, especially for a smaller practice, but there are providers (like Dolomite Technology) who offer off-site HIPAA compliant data center services that ensure compliance with the HIPAA restrictions, which saves small businesses a lot of money and headache.

Another technological scare for small Healthcare clinics can be deciding on a server. Most EMR Medical Billing Software systems are client/server based. The server is one main computer for the office that can be accessed by multiple “client” computers. So when picking a server one should keep in mind reliability and performance because the rest of the system will be counting on that one computer to keep it up and running. The next choice to be made is between using a system of Wireless Tablet PCs or Workstations. While workstations are more traditional and typically easier to get the hang of, they tend to be less accessible and more time consuming and expensive than Wireless Tablet PCs which allow physicians to go room to room documenting electronically as they visit each patient. However, there is a much greater learning curve for someone trying to get acquainted with the functions of the tablet as well as the EMR system as opposed to someone who needs only figure out the EMR system.

For law firms, it is necessary to store a large amount of private information, which brings things like encrypted external hard drives into play. What that also brings into play, though, is Case and Practice Management software, which is helpful for a smaller practice because it lessens the workload and, when properly organized and structures gives attorneys easy and immediate access to the information they need to keep track of a case and make informed decisions. It also allows attorneys to conveniently manage client and case information, including contacts, calendars, and documents. Many Programs also link to PDAs so that calendars and schedules are always on hand. The American Bar Association website has a chart comparing the different types of software available.

In terms of hardware, attorneys should look into lightweight laptops with a good battery life and wireless capabilities. Tablets can be useful for reading emails, briefs, or interrogatories on the go, the iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, and Sony Tablet S each have large screens, good battery lives, and easy to use keyboards; but the Wacom Bamboo Tablet allows one to hook it up to their desktop and allow them to easily annotate and diagram briefs and interrogatories.

In the world of Finance and Accounting, things are a little different. There are less complex hardware and software systems to worry about. Management Accounting challenges usually involve collection, recording, and reporting financial information from several divisions or departments. An easy way for a small business owner to simplify things would be installing Business Technology Software as part of the management accounting process. A comprehensive list of accounting software options can be found here. Accounting software allows a business owner to create financial reports so that the software automatically creates a financial report electronically. This saves a lot of time, but does require that accountants look over the reports to ensure complete accuracy. Generally the only thing a small accounting business has to worry about in terms of hardware is keeping their computer up to date, backing up their information, and possibly investing in a Cash Counter to increase efficiency and eradicate error in terms of counting money.

For Human Resources, most technological challenges center around the newfound surge of telecommuting and telework. Remote reporting relationships have become standard in the human resources industry, and while working from home can be appealing, it requires a lot of motivation and focus. With new technological advancements, however, human resource managers are able to track applicants and manage the recruitment process more effectively by using specialized software.

Hosted Software and Cloud Services free a company up from investing in hardware and upkeep because all of the information is handled by a separate third party. However, some businesses prefer to keep an in-house system so that they are able to maintain direct control. This option does require some hardware and upkeep, though. An example of in-house software would be SimpleHR software, which has both a single and multi-user version. The single use version is intended for fifty or fewer employees (making it perfect for a smaller business) and hooks up to a single PC. Hosted HR software won’t require any kind of extensive hardware and the main concern for business owners will be backing up information and keeping the computer up to date.

For all types of business, backing up information through the use of an offsite managed backup services is a good idea; as is keeping all computer systems up to date. Mostly, it is important to keep in mind that there is no strict set of things that will work for every single group, and things can be altered and tailored to fit the specific needs of any business.