Small business network support: the coming revolution

vmware_virtualizationIn technology, you get used to constant change. Every year, month, week, day…new technology, new products, new ideas. Whatever. It’s the norm.

But in the last few years, my piece of this world – in particular, small business network support – has gone through radical changes. Anyone in our trade who’s doing things the same way they’ve always done them is missing out on huge opportunities to increase efficiency and provide more stable, reliable services for their clients.

Sorry to say, any of you business owners out there who are comfortable with the status quo are also missing out. You may want to ask your tech how he keeps current on industry trends.

We’re working hard to stay ahead of the curve, by investing in tools, training, and infrastructure. I’m part of an industry mastermind group with colleagues from all over the country, where we continually evaluate and share the latest best practices. As a result, we’re making the most of these opportunities, and our clients see the benefits. We receive alerts to problems so we can be proactive and prevent serious issues, we can handle about 90% of the work remotely, our tools allow us to make network-wide updates in a fraction of the time others can manage, we have sophisticated systems to track client history…I could go on but you get the idea.

It’s nothing compared to what’s coming.

Cloud computing, virtualization, data center as a service…these trends stand to revolutionize the industry even further, providing network infrastructure as a utility that’s paid for on a usage basis. In many cases this will eliminate the normal investments in hardware and software. The business ROI is enormous.

Whether it’s computing power, help desk support, application software, or storage space, major players in the industry want to bring you these services on a subscription basis. When I say major players, I’m talking about the likes of Google, Microsoft, and Amazon.

We’re seeing these services hit the mainstream already, although it will be a gradual transition over the next few years. The way you handle technology in your business will change radically as we all move ahead with these new choices.

We’re already looking towards the future to see how we can better serve our clients. So here’s my question to you: are you already falling behind, or are you ready for the coming revolution?

Six ways Google alerts can help your business

AlertGoogle has a really handy service called Google Alerts. Using this service, you can have Google automatically email you whenever it indexes new results for whatever search terms you select.

For example, Google tells me any time my name, Wendy Gauntt, shows up online. I’ve even programmed in a common misspelling, Wendy Gaunt, to be sure I don’t miss anything. I’ve done the same with my company name, CIO Services.

So how can you use Google alerts to give your business an informational advantage?

  1. Find out when someone is talking about you or your company
  2. Track information on your vendors and new products you may wish to sell
  3. Watch for important changes at key prospects that might impact their willingness to buy from you
  4. Monitor major customer accounts so that you know what’s going on in their businesses
  5. Keep an eye on your competitors
  6. Catch upcoming industry changes

To get started, go to Google Alerts, type in a search phrase, select type (“comprehensive” will get everything), and pick whether you want updates daily, weekly, or as they happen. It’s that easy.

If the results aren’t what you’d hoped, you may need to refine your search. For example, when I searched on CIO Services, I got a lot of articles about CIOs. By putting quotes around the phrase “CIO Services,” I now get much more precise results. Here’s Google’s Advanced Search Cheat Sheet for more suggestions on how to refine your search.
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Cell phone keypadGoogle’s at it again. They are known for easy and free, and GOOG-411 is no exception. This time they’re eliminating those expensive cell phone calls to 411 directory assistance. Their free service helps you find what you need fast and easily, and they’ll even connect your call or send you a map to the location.

It’s completely voice-activated. Program 1-800-GOOG-411 into your cell phone favorites and you’re ready to go. When you’ve found the business you want, say “text it” to send full details to your phone, or say “map it” to get a mobile map (assuming your phone has mapping capabilities).

Check out this video for a quick overview:

For full details, visit the 1-800-GOOG-411 Home Page. Or just program in that number and give it a try. It’s really that easy. Gotta love Google!

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A home of your own: personal portal pages

My YahooTired of sorting through bookmarks and typing in website addresses? Let Yahoo! or Google bring information to you with a custom home page ( and You can select news and add links to your favorite sites or pull in information directly with RSS (really simple syndication). There’s plenty more—get the TV schedule, monitor stocks, check the weather, just to name a few. You can even set alerts to notify you when specific news stories are added. Be sure to set this as your internet browser’s home page to save yet another click.

An added bonus? You can get to your personal home page from any computer with an internet connection, so even if you’re on the road, you’ll have the information you need at your fingertips.

Google’s approach to innovation

Google tshirtGoogle has a highly innovative company culture, one I try to model in my own business. One way they encourage innovation is by allowing employees to pursue pet projects on company time. Many terrific Google services, like the toolbar and desktop search, were created in this way; check out up and coming innovations at

The reason I bring this up? Don’t be afraid to let your staff try new ideas. They have a different perspective than you, which means they’ll bring up ideas you might otherwise miss. Some will work, some will fail – but your willingness to innovate will set you apart from your competitors.

World Wide Web goes local

Yahoo Local

A current focus for major search engines is local search, in direct competition with the old standby, your phone directory. Google and Yahoo! both offer local search options that help you find businesses in the area.

Of course, what’s most important is making sure everyone can find your business. You may be listed already—they pull data from a wide variety of sources. If you don’t like the description, or you aren’t yet listed, sign up your business and edit details at and You can even ask customers to post online reviews.