The potential benefits for small businesses with internet access are vast. The obvious increase in communication channels provides great opportunities for advancing client lists, sharing information with contemporaries and making the most of the infinite encyclopaedia of knowledge that is the World Wide Web.
Email With small business internet access comes email. This is now an important asset for most companies, allowing enquiries to be managed at a more flexible pace than the telephone. This advance in control can improve the efficiency of small businesses. It will enable your staff to work closely with customers and colleagues, whilst minimising distractions and interruptions which can considerably slow down the work pace.
These days the favoured internet connection is a broadband (digital) rather than dial-up. The former means a faster speed and constant updates to your email account amongst other things. These days there numerous companies offering various broadband connections, many of which can be combined with the telecommunications of your small business. For more information see our Phone Systems page.
Advantages of broadband internet access for small businesses…
Efficiency and Speed – Small business internet connections can work wonders with your administration costs. For example it becomes possible to develop simple automated systems that automatically update the bookkeeping. Broadband connections also work at about 10x the speed of dial up which means every member of staff should get virtually instant access to web pages.
Decreased expenses and Administration cuts – the cost of the connection in most cases will be more than paid for by the most basic benefits such as administration cuts, streamlined business activity and the potential for your company’s online presence/ web site.
Communication Advances – Phone and postage bills will considerably decrease with the implementation of a small business internet connection. A lot of the time staff will be able to use email and online research facilities, rather than the premium rate telephone and postal methods relied upon in the past. Other possibilities include web portals that can only be accessed by members of your company, where everyone can share and update information, even off company premises (consider getting a virtual private network for this, which uses the very best in encryption technology for security). Easy and quick transferral of large attachments via email will also become the norm with broadband internet connections for small businesses.
Customer Service & Public Image Improvements – Broadband connections mean you, your customer, your colleagues/partners and your suppliers can all have 24 hour long access to the very latest information regarding accounts, stock lists, delivery, job changes and so on. This type of service will improve the all important public persona of your company. The potential for improved customer services will also encourage returning and recommended custom.
Broadband options for small business internet (these depend on availability within the location of your small business): 1) – Cable 2) – Satellite 3) - Wireless 4) – ADSL – Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line, now the most common. This tends to be available in 3 different speeds. The slowest is 512kbps which should be adequate for small businesses with no more than 7 users. However it should be possible to get a faster speed, of 1 or 2 Mbps (some now offer 8Mbps) without paying too much more. The faster the connection speed the higher the price, so weigh this up with the needs of your company before splashing out on an unnecessarily fast connection.
Hosting – Most small business internet connections are run by an internet service provider (ISP). These generally offer web access, email and newsgroups, a choice internet connection and a web space – this is useful if you intend to host your own website. Make sure your host suits the operation of your business and that the service you receive will be able to grow with your company. The following points will help you determine the type of small business internet connection you should aim for… 1) No. of users 2) Location of users – are they all within close proximity in one office space, or working from various locations locally/nationally/internationally. 3) Email requirements for each user 4) Network access – do all staff members have this? 5) Potential for online buying & selling – is e-commerce a likely development – how/who will manage this. 6) Whether your small business will/does have a website – who will maintain this.
Hints on getting Connected - See if you can get a free set up service from your provider; these are fairly common now due to market saturation and competition. Research the potential for added costs, such as the price and availability of technical support. - Opt for the minimum length of contract in case you are unhappy with the service you receive, but get recommendations in order to minimise this risk. - Bear in mind that many connection tariffs are based on the amount of data transferral. As a small business your internet usage might be comparatively small so you could save money this way.
Finally - your computer will be at a much greater risk to viruses and hackers once it has a broadband connection. Take precautions and install anti-virus and firewall software. You might also consider laying down some rules for employees to ensure they use the internet safely and securely. Internet connections for small businesses hold massive potential but do not come without their risks.