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Tech Savvy for February 11, 2010

by Dan Harper

    Technology purchases are probably the least favorite purchase of a small business owner, myself included.  It seems that the gadgets you buy are only necessary because of other gadgets, the whole process only serving itself in spite of the promise to make our lives easier.  Yet, this is the world we live in.  To stay competitive and hit global markets, business needs technology.  It has become a necessary evil.  The question becomes “How do we keep up without having technology eat my time and budget?”  The solution comes in the form of common sense. 

    First, don′t implement what you don′t have to.  Keep it simple is more than a principle, it′s mandatory to keep a business afloat.  In spite of what some experts will have you believe, most solutions are not complex.  These may be implemented quickly and simply.  If the proposed solution sounds more like a Rube Goldberg invention than a technology solution, you either need more education on what is being proposed, or it is the wrong solution.  Either way, don′t sign on the dotted line.

    Second, don′t pay for something if you don′t have to.  There are a lot of free solutions to common business tech problems.  Need a Computer Aided Design (CAD) package?  Autocad costs $4000 or more, while BRL-CAD is free.  Office?  You can spend $400+ on Microsoft Office, or download Open Office for free.  Need a database?  MySQL is free and runs half the Internet databases used for new websites.  More importantly, these solutions aren′t from some kid living in their parent′s basement.  The folks that make the solutions I mentioned are the US Army Ballistics Research Labs, Sun Microsystems, and Oracle.  All big players in the tech field who need no introduction.

    Third.  Don′t reinvent the wheel.  Unless your application is truly unique, someone somewhere has already done what you need.  More importantly, he has already had the learning experiences and has probably complained about them on line somewhere.  Do a little research and learn from his mistakes.  Save yourself the aggravation and expense.

    Fourth apply some common sense to statistics.  If an article says that the industry will save a trillion dollars implementing a change, no one mentions minor details like the length of payoff or how much it will cost to implement.  Read the fine print.  In one article I read recently, the savings of a trillion dollars was over 50 years, and over 5 million users.  This comes to a savings of about $300.00 per month.  Nothing to sneeze at, but certainly not as impressive as the trillion dollar figure.  To implement the plan would cost $250 per month, making the net savings $50 per month.  Most businesses of any size spend that on break room supplies.

    The bottom line is that tech should not be hard, complex or expensive.  Businesses and individuals sometimes use their client′s ignorance to sell them more products and services than they need.  Look at what they are proposing long and hard.  If you don′t think you need it for your business, what makes you think an outside contractor knows better?

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