(This is part two of this blog series. For part one, click here)
How to manage your data is just as important, if not more, as where to store it. The intensive nature of business operations, the immense amount of information that flows around and the difficulty of keeping track and reporting on everything, makes it useful to have a handy system to make that easier and save you some time – tons of coffee breaks and weekends in the office.
Here are a few systems to help you out with it.
It’s an online facility to store and maintain information in a centralised way.
It is like your own web library where you keep every tiny bit of info about your enterprise – from details about who your customers are to who your suppliers are, how many hours each employee covers weekly, etc.
You can effectively share documents with your team, assign tasks to individuals, monitor how a project is going by logging in its progress, coordinate calendars, receive important notifications, updates and announcements. And the access is limited to the ones you give authorisation to.
The benefits here are countless – it’s customisable according to what you require, it connects the team with the information and resources they need. In other words, it just facilitates a more efficient way of using information.
And you don’t need to be an IT wizard to work with it. You just need one to create it, like Lucidica
2. CRM systems
Customer relationship systems are systems that help you store all kinds of info about your customers –including what they’ve ordered but didn’t pay for, when they have called to complain and about what, etc.
Typically, there are two types: cloud-based and on-site.
The first type (eg Karma, Highrise, Capsula, etc) are quite a good option as there’s no software or hardware to be purchased. And because the system is maintained by the service provider, the amount of IT support your business has to deal with is minimal.
On-site, on the other hand, will give you greater control over the system, unlimited customisation potential, better integration and more flexibility. They, however, will be a bit more costly and will require more IT support on your part.
3. Emails (Exchange vs POP vs IMAP):
Just as any other data facilitator, there a few way of storing, or perhaps using mails depending on your business needs and what the nature & intensity your e-mail communication with your customers and other stakeholders is.
- POP e-mail creates local copies that are stored on the device you’re using and deletes the originals on the server. This means that you can only use one PC without having the option to sync to other devices. In other words using your smartphone/tablet or a laptop when you’re not in the office would miss out some emails. Pros – your mailbox storage is just as big as your hard drive, you can read your e-mails when the internet’s down.
- IMAP email is the regular Gmail, Yahoo or other email account that people create for personal use. Those e-mails are stored on a server somewhere and you’re reading them off the server without having them downloaded on your device.
If your business is a one-man band or comprises of just a few people, you may want to stick to IMAP e-mail accounts.
- Exchange (via Outlook) – seamlessly syncs not only e-mails across all devices (no matter what their OS is – Android, Windows) but calendars, contacts and other features. To be able to use Exchange, you can either have your own exchange server or host it as a hosted exchange.
If you have your exchange account info added to Outlook on your PC, all that is stored on the server is available/stored on your PC. So if a PC crashes that data is NOT lost. If you configure a new PC with the same mail box, the data will be there as well.
That is the best e-mail option you can go for, for a business. However, it all comes down to what is the nature of your business and how dynamic the exchange of information is. It makes online team communication and collaboration easier. You can view each other’s availability, share folders, without having to chase each other down for those login details for the company’s website.
Nevertheless, you can still use some online apps to do some of the aforementioned:
e.g.: Google Calendar (if you’d like to share your calendar with your teammates); Dropbox or SkyDrive (or others) to share folders, etc.
Those are the main pillars of business IT. Now how do you define whether your business should at all be bothered with any of them?
- How much time do you spend e-mail communicating with your employees and how much is that time worth?
If your business is heavily reliant on information flow and document exchange, then it is best to invest more to ease the exchange process and save your employees and yourself some time.
- How much would your business suffer if you lose all this data?
- How would it benefit your business – will it cut down labour costs, improve productivity and perhaps create a competitive advantage?
All you have to consider is what does your business need, weight out the options and their costs.
No matter what the solution, remember that as your business grows, the amount of data will grow too, which will require a lot more effort in managing it that you can possibly imagine.
If you have any business IT questions, shoot away! We’d be more than happy to answer.