A staggering news story appeared earlier in 2015: the United States government still partly relies on floppy disks.
The vast majority of Australia’s small businesses have firmly left the ’90s behind with nary a floppy disk in sight, yet outdated technology still affects many businesses. Some are annoying inconveniences, while some represent a serious security threat.
Then there's the bottom line: obsolete technology can affect productivity and profits. An expert in the area is David Markus, of IT services company Combo. He says, “If you can delight your customers without technology, then by all means, avoid it. However, technology provides efficiency and scalability so you can do more at a lower cost. If you don't keep your costs competitive, your clients will go elsewhere.”
A global survey suggests that as much as one week a year can be lost when using PCs that are four or more years old. Markus recommends upgrading “any piece of hardware that can be replaced by something that runs at four times the speed”.
“Each year and a half the speed of hardware doubles, so by the time it's three years old it has provided full value”, he adds. “The sooner it's replaced, the more money you will save.”
Software that's no longer supported by its provider has the potential to compromise a business’ security. “If you can’t download patches for the software, it's now a threat to your business. If it stops functioning, you have no recourse, and if the hackers can use it to your disadvantage, then the cost of the replacement was definitely cheaper.”
You can use a mobile phone to photograph a document and email faster than you can fax.
It seems inexplicable that some businesses remain reliant on fax machines. “You can use a mobile phone to photograph a document and email faster than you can fax,” says Markus. “You get better clarity and better traceability.”
The most popular telephony option for Australian small businesses is the Integrated Services Digital Network, but this is far from economical. An upgrade would be Internet Protocal telephony. Based on the same principles as Skype, this offers improved efficiency, flexibility, quality and other advantages, including the conversion of voicemail to email.
Correspondence, billing and note-taking can all be done electronically, and paperless offices are increasingly common. Some – including those with fax machines – prefer a hard copy culture, yet for environmental as well as financial reasons, moving on from paper could make a noticeable difference to your business.
Barnaby Smith is a writer and journalist who has written for a variety of publications across several subject areas in the UK, Australia and Switzerland.