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In the good news department, small business owners have more tech choices when it comes to technology than ever before. The bad news – they also have more tech trends to keep up with, and they don't always have the time or the IT staff to make the best call or provide the requisite support.
Acronis Software, a company that specializes in disaster recovery and data protection, offers up a few tips to help small businesses start thinking about the best way to approach new technologies, and how to think proactively about protecting their data.
Some of the questions Acronis hears from small business owners involve concerns around upgrading to Vista, remote applications and, of course, data recovery.
Vista and Service Pack 1
"People worry about upgrading to the Vista SP1 especially about compatibility," said Stephen Lawton, senior director of strategic marketing at Acronis. "Before you commit to migrating, make sure you make an image of the computers when they're working properly."
Doing so provides a fall-back position, Lawton said, and gives you the ability to return the PC to a point in time when everything worked the way it was supposed to. "If the worst happens and your systems crash, you'll be able to restore your PCs to working condition," he said. "If your systems go down, you can’t work and your business may not survive."
The company also advised that, regardless of the Windows operating system you use, you should keep your computers up-to-date with the latest upgrades and patches.
One of the more popular new technology trends is collaboration software. Walter Scott, CEO at Acronis, sees this as a result of more employees working remotely. Even in small businesses, "distributed workforces seem to be the norm rather than the exception," Scott said in a written statement.
"There are a number of great solutions to the collaboration problem including wikis, remote access software and Web conferencing tools. Even something as simple as shared group calendars helps keep far-flung teams rowing in the same direction," he said.
Software-as-a-Servicecompanies, such as Salesforce.com or PayCycle.com, host your data on their servers, and you access that data through a browser anywhere, anytime. Scott noted that "it makes for easier computer upgrades at the office since fewer applications will have to be re-loaded and updated."
You must keep data protection in mind, said Lawton, no matter whether you're dealing with on-premises software or an SaaS application.
"Corrupting a file in Windows is not hard to do," he said. "Anytime you change your system or add layers of complexity, you increase the risk of corrupting files. Remote applications can make changes to your registry or master boot record, and you'll never see the change.
"You need disaster recovery software that maintains clean images of your system files so you can restore computers to a working condition," said Lawton.
Adding new hardware to an existing network can also raise issues. Lawton recommends considering whether the new device will play well with equipment you already own. "I replaced a printer on my home-office network with a multifunction printer," he said. "The new printer's scanner software wasn't compatible with the other printers on the network."
The nature of computing is that things will go wrong. "Small businesses face challenges caused by run-of-the-mill products," said Lawton. "The key is planning in advance, and making sure you have recovery software that can back up and restore your computers to a pre-disaster condition."
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com
This article was first published on SmallBusinessComputing.com.