Today's Tech: System Updates
Many people don’t like change. We grow comfortable where we are, and we prefer not to move if we don’t have to. This can happen in any area of our lives, but it’s particularly bad for businesses because a failure to evolve can be fatal to your continued success. Change is inevitable. The only question is, will you accept it and adapt?
One of the most basic areas your business can stay current — an area that many business owners neglect — is keeping their systems up-to-date. That includes computer hardware and software. These technological workhorses help you automate your work, keep customer records organized, track sales and maintain your budget. Every system in your building that can be updated regularly should be updated regularly. Here’s a look at why that’s true, and how you can stay on top of the process so it is both cheaper and easier for you to do it.
Why we fail to keep our technology up-to-date
In a nutshell, many business owners don’t update their hardware and software systems for three basic reasons:
1. You don’t know what you need.
2. You think it will cost too much.
3. You’re not comfortable with technology; it seems too hard to master.
But the truth is, most computer companies are delighted to keep their customers (that’s you) aware of what is new, and they can help you figure out what you need. It’s not that costly to upgrade your systems when you do it as soon as you know you need to, especially when you include it in your annual equipment budget (as you should).
And despite how quickly new tech seems to be coming out these days, it’s not difficult to learn how to use. You simply need a little patience and willingness to learn something new. It’s worth it to do so, because staying up-to-date with your system updates can help you improve your business.
There are great costs when you don’t update your technology.
Whether it’s a piece of hardware like your sales computers, software like a customer database program or the equipment you use in your shop, technology is continually evolving and getting better. What happens when you don’t evolve with the technology you use? You risk hurting your business.
First of all, old equipment causes problems. It’s that simple. Think about it: Old computers run slower than new ones. Old software lacks the shortcuts built into the latest software. Old equipment eventually becomes incompatible with what is new. All of these factors slow down your workers and turn off customers. It’s hard to measure the ultimate cost to your business of failing to upgrade your technology, but it’s something you can’t afford to ignore.
Another major concern is the older your equipment gets, the more expensive it is to repair. At some point in the manufacturing cycle, older equipment stops being supported. The parts are harder to track down. So, costs go up.
In addition, you should always upgrade software regularly because within a few generations of upgrades, older operating systems are phased out. If you wait too long, you may not be able to update the software anymore. When that happens, the small cost of a software update for your computer can go up to hundreds of dollars to buy new software as well as new computer hardware to run it.
By the way, if you rely on search engines to help customers find your business, then you definitely want your software to be the latest version. Why? Because search engines favor websites and browsers that are up-to-date. In other words, when you don’t stay current with the online side of technology, customers may end up not seeing your business on page one or two of their Google search, where you need to be to catch their attention.
Finally, let’s talk about privacy, a highly charged issue with consumers. Remember Target’s massive customer data breach? It cost Target an estimated 46 percent of its profits, and an untold affect on its reputation. That’s the kind of loss that a small, local company might never recover from. But you can greatly lessen the risk that someone will steal customer information when you keep your software up-to-date.
Updates can be pain-free — and profitable — when you stay on top of them.
When you stay current with what is new, you get to capitalize on some of the best new tools available to you. Even a simple computer systems update is designed not just to be “new,” but to improve on what came before it. Updates and upgrades can make it easier and quicker than ever for business owners to track customers, send email reminders, generate reports — you know, all the things you do to keep your business running on a daily basis.
Many companies offer tech support to help you master their latest upgraded software and hardware. So, you’re not alone. Also, your younger employees probably have an intuitive understanding of new software because they’ve grown up with computers. Relying on them to learn the updated program and teach it to others not only benefits everyone in the business, but it also gives your most motivated, ambitious employees a new task to tackle.
Plus, when you keep your business up-to-date in every way — hardware, software, machinery, customer waiting area, even the coffee machine — it creates a positive work environment and a positive atmosphere for customers. Young employees who appreciate the latest tech will have more reason to stick around, while consumers are more likely to trust your business because they can see you clearly care about its every detail, even the small but necessary updates that keep things running smoothly.
So, how do you know when to update versus upgrade?
The basic rule for updating computer software is to do so whenever there are security patches, and to keep your software programs within one or two versions of whatever is the latest version.
Many programs will automatically let you know when you sign in to them that there is a new version available. For others, you might want to manually check by going into the appropriate software menu to check for updates. If all else fails, click the Help option for instructions on how to find out if your software has an available update. Also, consider signing up for the software company’s email newsletter, so you can learn about the latest updates when they are released.
For hardware, you should upgrade your equipment when it is so out-of-date that it no longer works with other, newer equipment you have or when it is not functioning properly and is too old or too costly to repair. A good rule of thumb is: If it’s four to five years old, it’s time to consider replacing it.