Your small business tech questions answered

 When it comes to setting up and running your small business, tech is at the top of the 'essentials' list. But keeping up with all the changes and developments in software, equipment and new programs, it can be hard to keep track of what you need to know to keep your small business running. That's why we're answering your most commonly asked tech questions. 

Question: How do I setup a professional email address for myself and my team?

It wasn’t long ago that to have your own domain name (mybusiness.com.au) and email accounts linked off that required an IT team, servers and enhanced internet connectivity, or a huge expense for an off-site service.
Today, you can register a domain name at any number of registration services, and setup your whole business to look as professional as the biggest businesses in the world. Every team member can have their own email address (theirname@mybusiness.com.au) and using a service like Google’s G Suite, and Microsoft’s Office 365 it’s all cloud based and works on any device.

Importantly, Google and Microsoft make these services available to the smallest of businesses with the same enhanced services as the big businesses who also use these cloud based services on a subscription basis. This means you can set storage limits for staff, perform password resets for staff, lock accounts down when staff leave, and create shared and individual calendars, documents and cloud file storage as well.

Setup is simple, and the costs are monthly with the normal charge being based on the number of users (staff) you have in the system.

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Question: How can I keep my devices safe from viruses and ransomware?

We’ve been trained over decades now to be alert and mindful of the threat of viruses, but these days, the threats are more diverse and complex. First and foremost your devices; including desktops, laptops and mobile devices should all have some level of internet security software installed on them. 

Internet security software on desktop and laptop computers will check any new files and program installations for malicious activity. On a mobile device it can scan app installations to check for vulnerabilities and privacy risks. Most importantly though, these software programs are trying to stay one step ahead of you when it comes to identity theft and phishing attacks. Phishing is the act of luring you into handing over details like passwords or personal information on websites that look legitimate but in fact are setup with the sole purpose of stealing those details.

For small home businesses often a personal installation of internet security software will cover multiple devices including mobiles. For those with more computers and staff you should look for business grade protection across all your devices.
The best software, working hand-in-hand with a high level of awareness about the likely threats, will be the best protection you can offer.

 

Question: How and where should I backup my data?

There are three core methods of backup available to all computer users. They are Local, Network and Cloud. 

  • For local backups, think portable hard drives. A simple device you can plug into your computer to backup important files and information on a regular basis.
  • A Network storage location might be a Network Attached Storage device (NAS) or a specific computer you save data to.
  • Cloud storage refers to online storage space you can safe files to, normally offered on a monthly or annual subscription.

It’s critical you have at least two of these backup regimes in place for your most critical business information, because something can go wrong with any one of them, leaving you vulnerable.
Local storage on portable hard drives should be done frequently, across multiple hard drives. Consider a hard drive for each day of the week, or for smaller businesses one hard drive per week, and operate on a four-week rotation. Keep the hard drives off-site so if there is any theft or fire at your office the data is safe.

Network storage is useful for constant and always accessible backups of files and data, offering you protection from a computer failure, while cloud storage uses your internet connection to send files and folders to online connected servers – this is the safest form of backup because it exists off-site and is readily accessible from any internet connected computer, allowing you to get back to business almost immediately.

 

Question: Is it possible to share files across the computers in our business?

With the right network in place in your office, all the computers connected to a single wi-fi network can share data quite easily. Windows and Mac computers are made to allow local folder sharing computer to computer, but they do require the computer to be always connected. A Network Attached Storage (NAS) device can sit on your network and provide always on real time file and folder sharing capabilities across your network.
You could also consider an online cloud service like Microsoft’s One Drive, Google Drive or Dropbox – file sharing here will require a constant internet connection and use your internet data, but offers the secondary advantage of being a constant backup of your data.

Question: Are there security cameras and systems I can use to monitor my physical premises?

It’s no longer the case that you need a professionally installed CCTV systems to keep an eye on your physical office or shop location. Smart internet connected camera systems are now available off the shelf offering amazing levels of security protection.
IP cameras as they are also known rely on your internet connection to stream video in real-time to your computer, tablet or smartphone.

Most will detect motion and record any activity to a cloud based server, allowing you to get notifications in real time of any activity.

Set a schedule during which you want them active, or even look for devices that offer Continuous Video Recording (CVR) so you have a real-time constant recording of all activity. When choosing a camera brand and system, make sure you know what you might want long term - a single camera from any brand will do great things in a single location, but if in the long term you want multiple cameras then you should choose a system that is expandable to meet those needs.

Trevor Long

Trevor Long is a technology journalist with over 20 years’ experience in the media. Trevor hosts a weekly radio show on 2UE called Talking Tech and is often seen providing technology commentary across Channel 9’s, A Current Affair and the Today Show nationally. Trevor is the co-founder and publisher of EFTM, an online site covering all things motoring, lifestyle and technology and produces two of the most popular podcasts in Australia.

 

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