We had an interesting discussion here the other day about which subset of products normally covered in PC Magazine should be considered appropriate for use by small businesses. This is one of those questions that can have no certain answer, but talking about it makes you realize just how diverse the needs of a small business are, and how big the demand on you is for business and technical skills.
Some things are easy: For example, nearly all desktop productivity products are suitable for small businesses. And of course, just about any business-grade PC or laptop is a must-have. For that matter, a good number of so-called consumer PCs will do the job just as well.
Once you get beyond those necessities, what you quickly see is that the categories of products that a small business needs are much the same as for any other business. These include accounting and finance software, networking hardware, e-mail servers, security products, and so on.
The differences lie in the scale of the required products, their cost, and in how those products are deployed. For example, an e-mail server comes in any number of sizes, including products that are almost consumer-like. It can also take the form of a full-blown Microsoft Exchange server, though you can also get Exchange as part of Microsoft’s Small Business Server or buy it packaged as an appliance from Azaleos.
However, you might prefer to get your e-mail and other collaboration services from a service provider that offers them. Some services offer products that are so like Exchange that you can’t tell the difference. Maybe that doesn’t even matter to you — you just need an efficient e-mail system.
Besides the size and the cost of products, you also need to consider your business and technical styles. Some of you may enjoy having complete control over many of your systems and products, while others are more concerned with the business side of your business and don’t want to spend much time controlling e-mail policy or unauthorized Web use. And those style needs may vary from category to category.
The bottom line is that there isn’t much in the way of software and hardware capabilities you don’t need in your small business. Your size shouldn’t constrain you from taking advantage of technology, because so many options exist to help you fulfill those needs. Take advantage of the ones that are right for your business.