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Monday, October 20, 2014 - 11:06am

To the Cloud: Small Business Tech Trends for 2013

To the Cloud: Small Business Tech Trends for 2013
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Monday, January 14, 2013 - 2:45pm

Small businesses are taking advantage of every cost-cutting convenience in 2013. These tech trends promote efficiency and savings, things owners and entrepreneur will be seeking in an economy still recovering from a major recession. From innovative methods of receiving payments to virtual meetings, small businesses have the flexibility and adaptability to take advantage of these trends.

Mobile Credit Card Processors
Clunky and hard to use, dedicated credit card processing machines are an unnecessary cost. Innovative start-ups have turned smart phones into credit card processing machines using simple accessories and App software. The most prolific example is Square, a plug-in device only slightly bigger than a quarter that facilitates credit card transactions. The Square Register app, available on iOS or Android devices, coupled with the diminutive accessory is all small businesses need to accept credit card payments.

Other providers are getting in on the mobile act as well. Credit card processing company Capital Processing Network offers its service through the Verifone PAYware Mobile device, which connects to smartphones for mobile transactions. Consumers can expect a surge in mobile credit card transactions in 2013. Research firm Aite Group expects bill payments to reach $214 billion in 2015, up from $16 billion in 2010, according to Aitegroup.com

Cloud Computing
In years past, small businesses that relied on data would have been forced to buy or rent servers, along with the space to house them. Cloud computing removes these expenses and offers additional advantages to data storage. Instead of hosting data internally, small businesses host data on the Internet, safely secured on an encrypted, password-protected cloud. Members of the business have access to this data anywhere with an Internet connection, and the best part is, these businesses no longer have to deal with hardware concerns, instead leaving those worries up to a cloud-computing provider.

Because businesses are trusting their entrusting their data to an outside provider, a strong reputation of reliability and customer service should proceed whatever company a small business hires.

Social Media Marketing
With start-up costs and internal investments, many small businesses struggle to compete with the deep-pocketed marketing departments in larger corperations. Luckily, a new trend in outreach is leveling the playing field for small businesses. Social media marketing connects business to consumers through platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Instead of paying for marketing space, users spread the word about their favorite brands personally, and the results can curb marketing shortfalls.

According to eMarketer, 24 percent of small businesses use social media to engage with customers and prospects in a structured way, while 49 percent of small businesses considered that tactic effective. As small business develop more comprehensive strategies, expect results to sky rocket.

Virtual Offices
Small businesses need a place to brainstorm, troubleshoot and operate in order to grow. In a earlier time, this meant renting a brick and mortar office space and taking on significant expenses. Technology has provided another option, however. Small businesses can conduct all necessary day-to-day functions in a virtual office. Instead of meetings, attend a video chat; instead of group notes, contribute to a Google doc.

Business partners can remain connected without using spend on office space and air conditioning. Set up this virtual office by creating a public Google calendar and organizing weekly video chats through Google Chat, Skype or any other free video chat service.