The New Year is well under way, and with it, you might be planning to invest in some new technology for your business. Whether your investment is small (a new smartphone) or large (new desktops or laptops for your entire team), you want to make the right decision. But how do you ensure that you do?
Ideally, you’d have an IT person who handles all this–but for most small businesses (mine included), this isn’t reality. If you’re doing some–or all–of the legwork on your own, here are my tips for getting what you need.
Talking to people. I always like to hear from trusted sources what they like and don’t like about particular products. Ask others in your industry, colleagues or even friends and family members who are knowledgeable about technology for their input on what product might be best for you. You can also put the word out on social media and see what people suggest.
Checking with experts. If you’re making a big purchase, you’ll likely want to enlist an IT expert at some point. Use a service like The Geek Squad or hire a consultant who’s familiar with your industry and understands the needs of a small business. Tell them what you want to use the tech tool for, what your current issues are and what budget you have in mind.
As you narrow down products…
Get answers. Here are some questions you may need to ask, depending on the technology you’re looking for:
- How compatible is it with your other technology?
- How fast is it?
- How much memory or storage is there and is it upgradeable/expandable?
- How secure is it?
- How user-friendly is it?
- Is there a new, better version about to come out (should you wait before you buy)?
Dig deeper. As you narrow down your choices you’ll want to read expert reviews about the tools you’re considering. Check out review sites like Cnet.com, PC Magazine Reviews, TopTenReviews, and ZDNet Reviews. Focusing on professional reviews rather than user reviews can save time because users can be less reliable. However, it’s worth glancing at user reviews and, if you see a lot of comments about slow speed or poor customer service, beware.
When you’re ready to buy…
Check them out. If your technology purchase involves a provider that you’ll be starting a relationship with (such as a Web hosting company or a website designer), get references from the company and contact them. Ask whether they were satisfied, how the company resolved any complaints or concerns, and whether they would use the company again. Of course, you’ll also want to do a quick online search to get a feel for the company’s reputation.
Know what you’re getting into. Last step: Before you put down any money, get out your magnifying glass and read the fine print. For both products and services, be sure you clearly understand:
- What’s included in the purchase price?
- Will you need additional products, software or support to get it up and running?
- What kind of customer support is available and are there any additional costs?
- How are updates handled?
- What type of warranty, if any, is offered?
- Are there penalties for early cancellation (if buying an ongoing service)?
If you’re a non-techie like me, buying technology is always a little intimidating, but these steps can help smooth your path. How do you handle technology purchases?
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit her blog at SmallBizDaily.com. Visit her website SmallBizTrendCast to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.