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posted: 11/26/2012 7:54 AM

Mobile devices give small businesses IT options

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You know that fourth quarter tax-planning conversation you have each year with your CPA? Dave Davenport thinks you should have a similar talk with your IT provider.

"Start with a conversation about tablets," Davenport says. "Tablets (touch screen computers that are smaller than a laptop) may not be right for you, but it's a good way to begin talking about the IT capabilities your business has."

The intent, Davenport says, is to discuss "how technology can enable, or inhibit, your business. Is there a better way to do things?"

Davenport is CEO of MotherG LLC, an Itasca-based IT outsourcing company.

If your conversation is with IT consultant Jason Burton, your website likely will be part of the discussion. That's because your site may need some tweaks, or more, to show well on today's mobile platforms, Burton says.

He is president of Chicago Technology Consulting, a Chicago business with a strong suburban base.

The need as computing devices get smaller is to "make certain your website works on mobile devices," says Burton. "Plug-ins don't work on certain screen sizes. Apple devices don't support Flash. For a smaller screen, you may want to redesign your site with bigger buttons that are easier to push with a finger, because there is no mouse."

If cost is an issue, you can do the website work yourself. "Talk to someone like me, get a few tips and build (your new site) on a WordPress platform," Burton says.

Part of the reason small devices work is that data increasingly are stored off site, in the so-called cloud. Davenport, for example, no longer carries a laptop when he leaves the office.

"I take an iPad," Davenport says. "I can type conference notes, find restaurants, read books. You can access data anywhere from any device. You can get to your files, your software, all your business apps from your car."

"The device doesn't matter," Burton says, because users no longer need a computing device that stores data. "All your data are there, available to any device."

Think about the possibilities: You can walk the production floor, Davenport says, making notes and entering scheduling adjustments into the system on your handheld device without running back to the office to make changes. Or you can have a virtual office by using technology that might not have been available before.

From smartphones to tablets, touch screen devices are increasingly common. "Most small businesses will have a touch computing device -- small Droids, mini tablets, even desktops," Davenport says. "It's intuitive for us to touch things. The new computing systems are very intuitive."

If you must have a keyboard to be comfortable, Burton suggests buying "a low-cost Bluetooth keyboard that connects with your iPad or Android" and type away. "It takes 30 seconds to set up."

• Jim Kendall welcomes comments at 2012 121 Marketing Resources, Inc.

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