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There is no doubt that businesses now rely on the internet to do business. Being online is necessary to perform all the basic functions in business. We use it to take orders, invoice customers, receive bills, pay bills, track inventory, communicate with employees, advertise, and on and on.

This interconnectivity results in faster communications, and hopefully more accurate information flowing around. And yet, we find many of our clients and their employees have a very minimal understanding of the technology they use every day.

The owner or CEO of a small business must not delegate all technology decisions to anyone else. There are some fundamentals in information technology that every owner must know to be able to make informed decisions.

There are several ways to get the basic technology language you need. First, talk to whoever you now depend on as your technology expert. Pick their brain and go for “understanding”. This means not blindly accepting jargon. Often, the jargon represents an important concept. If you are smart enough to run a business, you are smart enough to grasp the concepts. Get used to looking up technology terms in Wikipedia. You must understand jargon well enough to explain it to someone else. In general:

  1. Know what the software used in your business does, and if the staff are OK with it.
  1. Understand the kinds of servers you need. And then you need to understnd how servers interact within the secured work stations on your network. There are many benefits in using this kind of infrastructure. Make sure you know the benefits and the annual costs.
  1. Understand the “cloud” and how it can help you manage your company. The cloud must be considered if you are in the process of growing. For instance, the cloud is becoming less expensive than investing in your own storage space, and in your own applications.
  1. Understand how your data is protected. This includes the use of strong passwords; installation of a firewall; offsite backups, techniques used by hackers to trick employees to give them access (social engineering); and, use of security software that is updated continually to protect your business from infected emails and websites.
  1. CEOs should investigate the use of “hosted” versus on-site phone systems. New phone systems use Voice over IP technology (VoIP) which offers great, flexible opportunities to tailor the system to your business. Old technology phone systems do not offer the ease of making improvements in productivity and professionalism.

The key thing for you owners and CEOs to remember is that technology is not an overwhelming area to understand what you need in business decision making. We are not talking quantum physics here. Approach technology like you have had to do with accounting, financial analysis,  legal, etc. You need to understand major concepts – the critical 10%. You have to know the flow of your accounting data and read statements, but you do not have to be able to make accounting entries. Same deal for your technology.