iPads keep you connected 24/7. So do tablets, which are nearly, but not quite, the same thing.
There's a Google Voice phone number that will ring whatever phone you tell it to ring; a help desk connection that allows your help desk people to work at home, nice when the temperature plunges and the snow piles up; and, not so nice, when a virus kidnaps your files and holds them ransom.
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We've barely started the list of devices and systems available to small businesses. (Whatever happened to Windows 8, anyway?) If sorting through the various ways to best connect your business gives you a headache, you may need an IT consultant.
Two I know are Dave Davenport, CEO at MotherG, Itasca, and Steve Yates, president, Integrated Technical Solutions (ITS) Inc., Naperville. They're not the only two, but they boost my understanding of today's devices.
That's saying something.
"Many home users get a tablet for email and web access, but having a tablet just to have a tablet isn't worthwhile," says Yates.
"Begin with a plan. Figure out what you want to accomplish. If you take the tablet into the conference room for a meeting or to a customer to make a presentation, that makes sense," Yates says. Doing office work on a tablet isn't such a good idea, he adds.
Davenport suggests basing your communications technology around the importance you place on unifying your systems. "Do you want your voice mail to come via email?" he asks. "Do you want to be accessible when you're not in the office? Is letting other numbers ring through to your cellphone better than giving your cell number to everyone?"
Businesses with a help desk, such as MotherG, have found technology to be a boon during this winter's weather. "We're 24/7, and we need someone on our end of the line" when calls come in, Davenport says. Blending phone availability and remote Internet access has allowed staff to work at home when necessary but be instantly available to clients.
It's not surprising that the more devices we have, the more security becomes an issue.
Davenport warns of CryptoLocker, a particularly nasty ransomware placed through a seemingly innocent email attachment. CryptoLocker essentially kidnaps and holds your files until you pay a ransom.
Yates says it's a good idea to install browser updates and those from such common software as Adobe, Java and QuickTime. He also suggests keeping up with Microsoft's monthly patches, even though some can cause problems.
Naturally, there are changes ahead. In April, Microsoft will stop updating Windows XP and Office 2003; users of those systems might want to start planning.
Windows 8 isn't likely to be the answer. An update to Windows 8 apparently is on the way, but, Yates notes, "Of the 500 PCs we manage, only two use Windows 8. People don't like holding their arms in the air for eight hours."
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