Technology has become essential to doing business in today’s economy, but for many businesses, knowing how to choose the right technology can be a challenge. Almost one-third of small business decision-makers say their biggest technology challenge is understanding changing technology needs and choosing which products and services to use, making this the biggest tech challenge for businesses, according to a Forbes Insights and Cox Business survey.

The variety of technology available and the number of competing brands on the market can make picking the right tech a formidable task. To assist you with this process, here’s a shopping guide to what essentials to look for when buying tech for your business.

Tech Infrastructure Essentials

Setting up your tech infrastructure is the first order of business. For an increasing number of business owners, a mobile phone is the most important component of their tech infrastructure. Approximately 80 percent of small business owners use their smartphone for business purposes at least once a day, and 25 percent use it at least once an hour, according to Manta data.

With lightning-download 5G networks set to launch later this year, the fastest mobile processor is a must-have in a new smartphone. Today’s cutting-edge mobile processors, such as the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon processors, are designed to be fast enough to support 5G as well as on-device artificial intelligence, another key feature to look for in a new smartphone. On-device AI enables you take advantage of new technologies such as biometric identity authentication — which can help you keep your business data secure — and virtual reality, expected to grow in importance over the next few years.

Cloud infrastructure services are another essential component of your tech set-up. Using a cloud infrastructure can save you in on-premise equipment and maintenance costs while allowing you the flexibility to run your business from any location, as well as enabling you to scale up your operations as you grow. A good cloud provider should deliver superior uptime and customer service, as documented in a service-level agreement (SLA), along with strong security. Today’s leading infrastructure-as-a-service providers include Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, Rackspace Managed Cloud and IBM Cloud (formerly SoftLayer).

Marketing and Sales Automation Tools

Marketing and sales are the two keys to growing your business. Effective marketing requires consistent content creation and syndication, which involves a tedious process of posting content to multiple accounts across your various online, social media and email platforms. Marketing automation tools can help you automate this process by providing you with a single interface you can use to post your content to multiple channels without having to log into multiple accounts, schedule publication of content and track your campaigns’ performance. Today’s leading marketing automation platforms include Adobe Campaign, HubSpot, Marketo and Pardot.

To automate your sales, a good customer relationship management platform is essential. CRM tools enable you to automatically mine leads, identify hot prospects, track prospect interactions with your brand and optimize your sales presentation to appeal to individual buyer preferences. Today’s top CRM options include SalesForce, Base CRM, Insightly CRM, and Zoho CRM.

Apps to Increase Operational Efficiency

Other tech tools can help you cut costs by increasing your operational efficiency. One of the most time-consuming tasks of owning a business is bookkeeping, which 40 percent of small business owners identify as their least favorite part of running their company. Cloud-based accounting software solutions can save you time doing your bookkeeping by automatically syncing your accounting software with data from other apps that handle financial data, such as transaction processing, expense reporting and tax preparation software. Today’s most popular cloud accounting solutions include QuickBooks Online, FreshBooks, Xero and Zoho Books.

Another key to operational efficiency is your selection of office productivity software. Here again cloud-based apps can assist you by providing you with a mobile office suite you and your team can access from any location and sync with other cloud-based apps. Today’s top cloud office suites include Microsoft Office 365, Google G Suite, Zoho Office and LibreOffice ownCloud.

Building your tech infrastructure, automating your marketing and sales and streamlining your operational efficiency should be three of your top priorities when selecting business technology. By selecting the right mobile device and cloud provider to build your infrastructure, choosing a marketing platform and CRM tool to grow your revenue, and using cloud-based accounting and office suite apps to increase your productivity, you can lay a foundation for a thriving, successful business powered by a smart technology strategy.

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