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Michelle Pluskota

Vice President, Business Services, Big South Region of Comcast Business

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Expanding small businesses need latest technologies

August 31, 2015

Many small or medium-sized businesses (SMBs) just starting to expand into additional locations give little thought to technology. They install whatever phone system, Internet connection and data-storage servers are readily available without researching new technology options.

Many small or medium-sized businesses (SMBs) just starting to expand into additional locations give little thought to technology. They install whatever phone system, Internet connection and data-storage servers are readily available without researching new technology options that have increased capabilities to meet the unique needs of businesses with multiple locations.

Dr. Chad Audi, president and CEO of Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), knows from experience that this approach is not the most desirable. He’s seen how the wrong technologies can drag down an organization and how the right technologies can boost its performance.

DRMM, which provides substance abuse treatment, transitional and permanent housing, job preparation and educational courses to the homeless, abused and alcoholic, has in the past few years expanded its facilities (now 14 throughout the city) and its employee base (300 full-time and 70 part-time workers). But until recently, it relied on inadequate technologies.

Now with the latest, most advanced technologies being installed, this 106-year-old nonprofit will soon save money, work smarter and more efficiently, and give both its employees and clients a better experience.

Other SMBs can have similar results. For example, if all of a company’s locations are interconnected with the one of the latest VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) telephone systems, employees can quickly and easily make calls (and transfer customers) between locations. They need only dial a four-digit number — instead of dialing 1 plus the area code, and seven digits as if they were dialing from outside the company.

These new phone systems are just as easy to use from outside the office. With a smartphone app, employees can use the four-digit dialing for faster, smoother calls. They can also answer calls on — and transfer customers from — their smartphones without customers knowing they are out of the office.

A new phone system also works more seamlessly for customers whose calls need to be transferred. They don’t have to wait for the longer number to be dialed. They are less likely to be connected to a wrong number. And employees seldom tell them to “just call one of our other locations directly, and someone there will help you” — a statement that often leads to loss of business, as customers simply decide to call a competitor instead.

Finally, these systems don’t require upgrade contracts or fees. Because they are cloud-based, hosted systems, they can be upgraded in the cloud by the provider, thus avoiding the need for someone to visit each office and install an upgraded card into a PBX — an old, time-consuming effort.

DRMM will be taking advantage of these and other benefits of its new phone system — benefits boosted by the nonprofit’s significantly increased network bandwidth. Today, DRMM has a bandwidth speed of only 3 megabits per second (Mbps). Soon, the newly installed, 100-Mbps bandwidth will eliminate the dropped calls that happen frequently with the slower network.

In addition, the faster bandwidth will give DRMM’s employees and clients a much more reliable Internet connection. No longer facing the once-common slow downloads and uploads, employees will be able to better serve clients, and clients will be able to more easily use the organization’s computers to look for jobs, prepare their resumes, and improve their education.

One new technology that DRMM has yet to implement but plans to start using soon is the cloud — a technology all expanding SMBs should consider for data storage and software applications.

The practice of saving a company’s large data files on its own centralized servers has practically disappeared for companies with multiple locations. Most companies are now saving files on third-party storage facilities in the cloud.

The primary reason for doing so is disaster recovery. By saving data files in the cloud, companies no longer have to worry about electrical outings, fires or other disasters that could cause their servers to go down — a costly experience that could disrupt business for hours or days. Most cloud-based servers are up and running nearly 99.99 percent of the time.

Many SMBs are also using cloud-based software. Renting this supplier-provided software saves them money because it’s less expensive than buying the many licenses they had needed so their employees could use the software historically purchased and installed on their computers.

As SMBs expand into new locations, they must not overlook the latest technologies — technologies that can help them save money and improve their performance and customer service.

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