As a small business owner, just about the last thing I want to deal with is techy stuff. Still, years of experience (sometimes hard-earned) has led me to come up with a “tech tune-up” that I pull out every six months or so.

Whether you have an in-house team, outsource your needs to a local tech company, or rely on an online provider, it’s a good idea to review the following five areas periodically. This checklist can help you make sure your devices and systems are working as they should be and find ways to run more productively. As you conduct your review, you should also think about how you’re keeping your systems secure. In this video, small business expert and entrepreneur Bill Rancic explains the importance of regular data backup, 24/7 tech support, and other tactics and tools you can use to protect your business.

Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to consider before beginning your tune-up:

1. Hardware

Gone are the days when you needed to keep track of only desktops, a server, and a couple of printers. With business boundaries expanding, smartphones, tablets, and other devices have entered the mix—and there’s no turning back. Securing these devices and ensuring they’re used properly is a growing challenge. As data volumes continue to rise, you also need to be sure the files on these devices are safe and accessible in the event of a hardware failure or disaster.

2. Software

Most small businesses are only as efficient as the software they’re run on, whether it’s customer relationship management, bookkeeping, or inventory tracking. To maximize productivity, it’s essential to keep these applications current. It’s equally important to regularly update the software protecting your systems, such as anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. If you don’t use a hardware firewall to safeguard your network, you should also have software firewalls installed on each computer.

3. Internet

Chances are the Internet is indispensable to your business, both to help you reach out to customers and to operate more productively. It’s worth checking in every now and then to be sure you are getting the most from it. This means reviewing your website to see that all is working and up-to-date, and thinking about whether your current web service will meet your future needs. For example, if you’re planning to sell a new product or service online, you’ll want a website that’s powerful enough to accommodate spikes in traffic.

4. Phone systems

Landline phones may seem passé nowadays—I know I rarely use mine anymore. Whether you use them in your business, it’s important to have a phone system that makes you easily accessible and helps keep costs down. This might mean adding a toll-free number so customers can reach you or using Voice over IP (VoIP) to make international calls inexpensively. If your employees work remotely, it may also mean exploring systems that forward calls automatically to mobile phone numbers.

5. Wireless

There’s more pressure these days to be constantly connected wherever you are. Being outside of the office is no longer an excuse for not responding to business emails or taking part in meetings. I was reminded of this recently when I had to give an important client presentation by conference call, and I had no choice but to do it from the airport. Fortunately, today’s tools make this easy. But as more employees take advantage of wireless connectivity, it’s critical they do it in a way that keeps your valuable data safe.

 As you conduct your own tech tune-up and find ways to make your business stronger, I’d love to hear about your experiences. What one change do you expect will have the greatest impact?


Alice Bredin is America’s foremost small business expert, with more than 15 years of experience in the small business market. She has provided highly practical, actionable advice to millions of business owners through her books, syndicated newspaper column, radio commentary, and small business forums.