Small Business and IT: Cori and Emily Feel Your Pain

It's hard work to keep a small business going in an economic downturn. How do you find new customers and keep current ones happy while juggling cash flow challenges and employee schedules?  The last thing on your mind is probably an IT upgrade. But there are good reasons to think about making a technology investment, especially in light of proposed tax deductions for new equipment purchases.

As marketers, we're here to tell you that an efficient IT environment can help you in several ways, from increased productivity to better data security to easier maintenance of your hardware investment. But what do improvements in productivity, security, and maintenance look like in the real world? We'll go into more detail in future months, but first we want to introduce ourselves to you – and give you some insight into what we see as key IT challenges for small business owners.

So where are we getting this information? Market research, yes – but more importantly, stories from family and friends who run small businesses, some of our smaller customers, and even our own work experiences outside of Intel. (In case you're wondering who we are, we'll go ahead and establish our "geek cred" with this video of us talking about why ECC memory is important. More on that later.)

We hear a similar tune from everyone we talk to: running a successful small business means doing more with less, and that includes having an IT environment that handle anything you throw at it. Want to run applications like Microsoft Exchange Server? Want to share files and work collaboratively? Want to back up your data? Want to access your email remotely? Want to check the status of your computer systems even if you're out of the office? That dusty old desktop system you've got stashed in a back closet won't cut it. You need a "real server" to run your business.

Wait, what's that? You can't afford a server?  Well, can you afford to lose sensitive customer data? Can you afford to be offline for hours (or days) at a time, with no way to place new orders or close out existing ones?  Over the next few months, we'll be discussing the benefits of a “real server.” And we want a discussion. Give us feedback on the technology needs – and challenges – of your small business. Our theory: older equipment is slower, costs more to maintain, and can result in significant downtime. In 2010, if you're not online, you're missing customers – and missing opportunities to increase your revenue.  What do you think?