AS THE FOUNDER of Moss Appeal, a promotional marketing firm based in New York, E.B. Moss doesn’t go anywhere without her laptop and Pocket PC. However, even she gets a bit befuddled by technology.
“I am always afraid that I might be misusing a phrase or acronym,” says Moss, who started her virtual agency in 2001 after working in radio and cable for many years. (For a video on how Moss uses technology to market her business, click here .
Keeping up with the ever widening list of technology buzzwords is enough to confound even the tech savviest of business owners. But getting a grasp on tech terms can help you navigate the business world and spot new programs and applications before they hit the mainstream.
Here’s your small-business tech speak glossary:
Avatar — From a business’s online customer-service representative to someone’s alter ego in virtual worlds such as World of Warcraft, the practical applications for “avatars,” or digital representations of their users, are just beginning to take shape. Some entrepreneurs like virtual worlds for their marketing value while others are setting up shop there. To read more, click here .
Contact Managers — Ideal for business owners who need to keep track of numerous clients and other contacts but typically don’t have any inventory, contact-manager programs include GoldMine and Sage’s ACT Contact managers, which also track office tasks, offer a more powerful alternative to Microsoft Outlook but are generally less robust than CRM programs.
Content Management System (CMS) — This type of software generally allows users with meager knowledge of programming or markup languages such as Java and HTML, respectively, to create and manage a web site’s content. Open-source content management systems include: TYPO3 , Joomla! and Mambo . Click here for more about getting on the web.
Crowdsourcing — If two minds are better than one, how about a crowd? This spin on “outsourcing” — that is, subcontracting projects to non-employees — let’s multiple people tackle a problem rather than just one. Business owners seeking an audience for their prospective business ideas might head to Calgary-based Cambrian House . For more on crowdsourcing click here .
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) — These programs allow business owners and employees to track customers’ buying habits, and have grown in popularity since they were first introduced in the 1990s, says Peter Marston, an analyst at Forrester Research in Foster City, Calif. SugarCRM provides a free, open-source option (see definition below). For more on CRM, click here .
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) — An ERP system pulls from both hardware and software programs, and can unify functions within operating and production departments. Such a system, says Marston “can help really small businesses manage [their] core business applications.” For instance, an ERP system might contain both information technology and warehousing functions. Search for various ERP applications at Appexchange.com .
Intrusion-Detection- and Prevention-Systems (IDS, IPS) — Beyond firewalls, business owners are using security measures that detect malicious software and viruses (IDS) and upend them (IPS). Many small businesses are opting for unified threat management (UTM) systems, which typically offer IDS and IPS capabilities in addition to other features such as a firewall and spam blocker. For more on this, click here .