(ARA) - The United States' 25 million small businesses produce half of the country's gross domestic product but rarely get the recognition or help they deserve. Recently, however, technology companies have been waking up to the needs of small businesses. We've put together a list of some traditionally big business technology that is now within the reach -- and budget -- of small businesses.
Below are some suggestions for products that small businesses might want to treat themselves to.
For the IT person: network attached storage (NAS)
Typically, companies buy new general-purpose servers not because they need more processing power, but because they need more storage space. Network attached storage is the answer to this problem. NAS servers are less complicated (and less expensive) than general-purpose servers and have been used by large companies for a few years. Now Iomega, world-famous for its storage technology, has introduced a line of NAS products specifically for small businesses. They range from $1,099 to $5,999 and can be installed by a non-techie person in around 15 minutes.
For the finance and operations team: operations software
While large organizations have long used integrated software applications costing megabucks to run operations such as accounting, payroll, billing and customer service, small businesses have had to make do with a patchwork of dated software. Now a number of big software vendors are making such products available to small businesses over the Web. For example, Oracle's Small Business Suite costs about $100 a month and includes accounting, payroll, Web presence, customer relationships and expense reporting.
For the sales team: key chain storage
If your sales people are fed up with hauling hefty computers around like “digital donkeys,” treat them to one of the new key chain storage devices. Weighing less than an ounce, they can store and transport numerous multimedia presentations or hundreds of product data sheets, and will plug into the USB port of any computer. Iomega's Mini USB drive costs less than $100.
For the marketing team: high-quality printers and paper
For those weary of long lines at Kinko's, high-quality printers are more affordable than ever. For as little at $125, the Epson 785 EPX is one of the best on the market. And Superior Inkjet paper from Printasia ($10.99 for 100 sheets) and photo CD labels ($14.99 for 20 labels) allow an in-house team to produce beautiful presentations and leave-behind materials as nice as anything from a professional copy shop.
For the whole office: wireless Internet access (Wifi)
Be connected to the Internet wherever you are in the office. "Wifi" simply refers to "wireless fiber" (wireless, high-speed Internet access). All it involves is connecting your broadband Internet line to a base station that will broadcast connectivity up to 150 feet, and adding an inexpensive wireless card that receives the signal to your laptop. Base stations range in price from a $150 Microsoft model to the $275 Apple version (both of which work with either a PC or Mac), and wireless cards from companies such as 3COM or Netgear start at $50. The total price for creating a mobile workspace can be as little as $1,000 for connecting up to a dozen users.