Six Ways to Use Information Technology to Grow Your Business

Six Ways to Use Information Technology to Grow Your Business

September 5

Getting a business of your own up and running is easier than ever. With information technology being a common fixture in our daily lives, it’s possible to operate a fully functioning business from your home, only leaving the house for the rare fresh breath of air and occasional social interaction. Taking that business to the next level — now that’s an entirely different animal. You may get by, but over time, your company could easily find itself in a standstill, more static than a non-responsive website designed in the year 2000.

Moving your business along that cycle of success is very challenging, but with some creative use of information technology, you can see it grow by leaps and bounds.

1. Use Open Source Software

The software landscape has changed dramatically over the last 10 to 15 years. Due to licenses designed to prevent piracy and inappropriate usage, software gets more expensive the more users you need to support and the longer you need to use it. Thank goodness for open source. Many open source programs have flexible licenses that not only permit free usage, but modifications at the source code, meaning you can actually change the functionality to meet your specific needs.

To make matters even sweeter, there is an open source version of almost every piece of software you need to run your business. Examples include:

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Commercial Software: Salesforce

Open Source Equivalent: Sugar CRM, CiviCRM, VTiger

Content Management System (CMS)

Commercial Software: ExpressionEngine

Open Source Equivalent: Joomla, Drupal, PHP-Nuke

Office Productivity Suite

Commercial Software: Microsoft Office

Open Source Equivalent: OpenOffice, LibreOffice, NeoOffice

Photo Editing

Commercial Software: Adobe Photoshop

Open Source Equivalent: GIMP. Krita. Paint.NET

Operating System

Commercial Software: Microsoft Windows

Open Source Equivalent: Linux, FreeBSD. MINIX

2. Barrow Resources From the Cloud

If it’s one piece of information technology that appears to be tailored for the growing business, it’s cloud computing. Whether it’s storage capacity, platform services or applications, the cloud concept is all about only paying for what you need. So when your business is experiencing growth or sudden traffic spikes, you can scale up to get the resources required to meet those demands. When things taper off, you can easily scale back down to whatever you can comfortably afford. While the cost savings aspect is debatable, cloud computing does prevent you from having to shell out premium coin for upfront investments in hardware or software.

3. Virtualize Your Infrastructure

Virtualization is another hot trend that caters to the growing business in need. By allowing you to simulate multiple virtual servers in a single physical host machine, it makes it possible to get the maximum performance out of your existing hardware, while sparing you the cost hassles of purchasing all new equipment. Although virtualization is arguably most common with servers and desktops, its power is not limited to computers. This technology can be used to maximize the efficiency of applications, storage devices, and network appliances of various sorts.

4. Indulge in Crowd-sourcing

Don’t have the bread to invest in research and development or other aspects that could propel your business forward? You may be a prime candidate for crowd-sourcing. The crowd-sourcing phenomenon exists to help business professionals just like you bring your projects to life. Believe it or not, but there are people out there who are willing to assist with marketing, design, and even the funding of your projects. You can find them through crowd-sourcing sites such as Kickstarter as well as freelance services like elance and good ole social media.

5. Create a Social Presence

Speaking of social media, it has grown far beyond the fad stage to a potential lifer that no business can afford to ignore. Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn offer genuine opportunities to expand your presence by first giving you access to a much larger audience, and then giving you a chance to build personal relationships. There are privacy issues and corporate image concerns that need to be addressed, but with some patience, this channel can help you create evangelists who actively promote your brand. While social media is not for every organization, with the steam it has been able to sustain, it at least deserves some consideration.

6. Embrace Mobile Devices

Chances are, everyone on your staff has at least one mobile device they use on a regular basis. It would be nice if you could provide your team with a fleet of the exact same devices, but if that’s not possible, don’t worry because there is plenty of room on the BYOD bandwagon. Bring your own device or BYOD is a movement that encourages employees to use their own personal gadgets on the job. This concept is great from a familiarity aspect as an Android fan may not feel comfortable using an iOS device and vice versa. If you decide to go the BYOD route, make sure you implement some policies that address boundaries, security, app usage and other elements that impact productivity and the corporate identity.

With the slew of proven technologies and all the promising concepts on the upswing, this is one of those posts that can easily go another couple of pages. In fact, I’m pretty sure I missed something. Oh well.

What would you add to this list?

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