In the current tough economic times, it’s important for small business owners to get the most out of every rand spent on their business. When it comes to technology, you can make your investment work harder for you by harnessing the power of the Internet to develop and grow your business.
Carolyn Holgate, GM of MWEB Connect says, “These days, a small business can get so much more from an Internet connection than just e-mail access and web surfing. The Internet provides an opportunity to ensure your business is efficient and productive and ultimately, profitable.
“Once you have a broadband connection – either ADSL, or 3G/ HSDPA – there are several added benefits that often come bundled with your subscription, and once you’ve got the connectivity, there are even more ways that you can make the Internet work for you with a relatively small investment.
Anti-virus and Spam filters
To protect your e-mail inbox from unwanted spam and to prevent e-mail viruses from being received into your inbox and infecting your computer, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) should offer you a spam filter and anti-virus software. For example, MWEB offers AVG anti-virus software and MWEB Junk Mail Filter free to its subscribers.
Fax to e-mail
More and more SMEs in South Africa are using fax-to-e-mail products to reduce paper wastage and preserve the environment. It also means you don’t have to purchase a fax machine, or the paper needed for printed faxes.
Using the Internet to make phone calls
Once you’ve got a broadband Internet connection, you can also use it to make cheaper phone calls. Officially called Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, it simply means you can use a normal phone handset that is plugged into an ADSL router to make cheaper national, international and cell phone calls using your existing Internet connection.
Holgate says, “Anyone can make use of MWEB’s VoIP service, called Webcall, not just MWEB subscribers. Each user will receive an 087 telephone number, with which they can make and receive calls from any network, including Telkom and all the cellular providers. And most importantly, calls between Webcall subscribers in South Africa are absolutely free. This is particularly useful for small companies with satellite branches around the country, as interbranch calls are free if you use Webcall.”
When your business is up and running, it’s important to make sure potential clients can find you. Registering a domain (website address) provides your company with a unique identity that can be used for Internet-based communication, and is the first step in establishing your business presence online. To register a domain you need to contact your ISP and you’ll also be able to secure an e-mail address that reflects your business identity.
If you register a domain, you’ll also need a website to profile your business and that website will need to be hosted somewhere. “Web Hosting is a service provided by companies such as MWEB, which offers small businesses web space on a shared server which is maintained by the web host,” says Holgate. “A website helps establish a business’ presence online, and facilitates easy access to information about the company.”
Having access to the Internet opens the door to a wide array of free software, which can be useful for your business too. Accounting and bookkeeping are the most sought after programmes providing SMEs with user-friendly information to process sales as well as managing cash and inventory. Time management programmes are also becoming more popular as many businesses now bill per hour instead of per project.
Holgate concludes, “Getting connected is just the start, and the Internet opens many doors for small businesses, offering cost-effective tools and services and a host of marketing opportunities. By making the most of your connectivity, you can soon make it pay for itself several times over.”
For more information call 08600 32000 or click here.