BIZTIPS - August 5, 2007

Biz Tips: Find Tech Help For Your Business
Sunday, Aug. 5, 2007
By Art Hill

Technology is great...until it doesn't work. Then it's like a classic sports car. You need a second car for spare parts and a good mechanic standing by.

Unfortunately most small businesses don't have information technology (IT) staff standing by unless they are tech companies. So where do the rest of us go when our computer takes an unscheduled leave of absence?

Some business owners and their employees learn enough to get through minor glitches. Then they pay an independent contractor to fix major problems, evaluate new systems, or install upgrades. If you go this route, pick someone with a proven track record in supporting small business systems. Hobbyists and rocket scientists may not share your business computing priorities.

Of course, some of the "minor glitches" we once fixed ourselves are now more complex. A colleague in the Midwest apologized the he hadn't returned my calls because his internet phone system didn't work under Vista on his new PC. His computer problem grew to include a phone system problem.

Where do you turn when you're stumped? According to a recent Wall Street Journal article "…friends and neighbors aren't the only option." There is a growing list of high quality websites that offer help for technically challenged business owners and their employees.

Top choices among the experts cited in the article include three sites with strategic information on technology trends: basselinemag.com; cio.com; and informationweek.com.

Sites with more tactical information for fixing or avoiding problems, and even for creating specialized business applications without a technical background include smallbizresources.com; biztechconnect.com; and services.alphaworks.ibm.com/devengage.

The article also suggests that business owners can profit from partnerships with colleges and universities. Students and faculty are no longer interested only in theory. Examples include a college team with expertise in IT and accounting that worked with local businesses from a two-person tax service to a mid-size property management company.

Finally, the article cites an example of a company that turned to their Small Business Development Center for help in technology management. The SBDC worked with the business for six months evaluating e-commerce systems for scheduling and invoicing company services in three cities. Because our SBDCs are funded by the Small Business Administration, the company paid nothing for the expert guidance.

A couple of years ago, a Qwest poster summed it up pretty well for small businesses. "Call the IT guy! Wait a minute, I'm the IT guy." Now you can approach small business technology challenges with less shock and fear. There's more help out there than ever.


Content © 2007 East Oregonian