Innovations in Manufacturing Tech

Manufacturers have long been at the forefront of technology. Today, this trend continues, but with new, innovative tools that are designed to make business more efficient and workers more productive. This technology has helped much of the manufacturing sector despite costs continually rising, supply chain interruptions, and other variables. Let’s take a look at some of the major technology changes that have fueled manufacturers during the past few years.

Enhanced Digitalization

Manufacturers typically take materials and turn them into consumer goods or components for other manufacturers to use in their process. Many manufacturers have begun the process of digitization; meaning that they now are using digital systems to manage their business, interact with customers, and handle all the automation that has been tabbed to make their process more efficient. Most manufacturers have been using digital technology for quite some time, but some of the shifts that make these changes innovative include the leveraging of robots to do collaborative tasks.

Cobots

Artificial intelligence fuels this trend by using machines that are colloquially called “cobots”. Over 40% of manufacturers use robots and with smarter software the “cobots” can work alongside human workers rather than outright replacing them. This means these robots are much more affordable than traditional robots that typically replace human workers.

IoT

Another digital evolution for manufacturers comes from the Internet of Things. These sensors may not be built specifically for manufacturers, but they hold considerable value for them. The biggest benefit comes in the manner of predictive maintenance. Sensors can keep track of components and maintenance schedules, which can cut down on maintenance costs by a whopping 25 percent. If you consider that downtime can cost tens of thousands of dollars an hour, the more you can do to keep systems functioning as intended the better your business will be.

Machine Vision

Another use of AI in manufacturing is called machine vision. It lets companies automate their quality control processes on each end of their business. Basically, it allows a manufacturer to run their operations faster than they would if they relied on humans to run point over their quality control. With machine vision detection, manufacturers can increase production and maintain a level of quality they expect from their process, a win-win for any manufacturer.

Technology can help any type of business, but if you’re a manufacturer that could benefit from innovative new digital tools, reach out to the IT experts at Point North Networks at 651-234-0895 today.

Tips to Help You Determine How Much Bandwidth You Need

For small businesses, having a fast, reliable Internet connection is needed to run all the digital tools that your staff has come to depend on. If you don’t have the bandwidth in place, you can deal with bottlenecks that can ruin communications, stall productivity, and cause operational issues of all types. Today, we’ll take a look at how to determine the amount of bandwidth you need to support your business’ computing infrastructure.

What Exactly Is Bandwidth?

There is a misconception that bandwidth is the speed of the Internet that you obtain through your chosen service provider. It does play a role, but it is not synonymous with connection speed. Bandwidth is actually the measurement of the amount of data that can be sent over your Internet connection and across your network in general in a designated time frame; typically measured in megabits per second (Mbps). The more bandwidth you have, the more data can be transmitted at one time. With a lot of businesses now leaning quite heavily on digital tools, knowing how much bandwidth your company needs is extremely important.

What You Need to Know to Get the Bandwidth Your Company Needs?

The first thing that you need to get the bandwidth your company needs is to find a reliable ISP (Internet Service Provider). Not all ISPs are created equal and for business purposes having an ISP that can easily scale your bandwidth to your needs is an important factor. You also don’t want to overpay, and waste your operational capital.

Let’s look at the variables you have to consider when choosing the right amount of bandwidth for your business:

The Number of Connected Devices

This is pretty simple. The more devices that need to be connected to the Internet, the more bandwidth you are going to need; especially if these devices are consistently being used to access Internet-fueled applications. You also need to take into account all the mobile devices that are connected to the network. In many cases they will outnumber workstations and other hardware.

The Type of Applications Used

Your business has a unique profile that is made up of all the tools you use and the processes that govern the use of them. For basic use, such as online browsing, email, and social media, a company would only need about one Mbps per user. Most businesses nowadays use their Internet connection for much more than this. Activities like VoIP calling, video conferencing, video streaming, and cloud computing can multiply this by up to five times.

This is why it is important to get a good read on all the potential uses your business has to build a connection that works to support your business’ computing requirements.

At Point North Networks, we know how important the Internet is for your business. Our consultants can help you estimate the level of bandwidth you need, and can actively help you acquire that bandwidth so that you can operate as efficiently as possible. Give us a call today at 651-234-0895 to talk to one of our IT professionals to set up an assessment of your Internet connection and applications to give your business the best chance of success.

A Router Password Repository Helps Keep Access Secure

What do you do if you have forgotten your wireless router’s password? You could restore the router back to its default settings, of course, but what if you have, like a dummy, never changed the router’s password in the first place? This Internet password repository could be your saving grace.

RouterPasswords.com

RouterPasswords.com is a website built to document default usernames and passwords for wireless routers. It’s run by a community of users for a community of users. Essentially, anyone can submit their default username and password for their router to help anyone out who may have forgotten it somewhere down the line. They make a point to highlight that the username and password of the router is not the one set by your Internet service provider–rather, they want the factory-set default credentials. Once the credentials have been reviewed by an administrator, they are added to the online repository.

 

It’s also worth mentioning that this site can be helpful from a technician’s perspective as well, as identifying the default username and password for a device can mean less work and less time spent troubleshooting an issue, if that is indeed the problem at hand.

 

In addition to having the largest default router password repository on the Internet (according to them, at least), the website also provides tips and tricks for how to manage router settings, reviews for the latest wireless routing technologies, and news related to wireless technology.

There is a Dark Side to This Website Existing

Of course, there is also the negative consequence of a website like this existing in that, if you can use it, so can anyone else on the Internet—hackers included. Imagine that you are a hacker and you’re trying to find the path of least resistance into a wireless network. You notice that the device’s wireless network name was never changed or set up beyond the factory default, so you assume that the wireless network’s password is also the factory default.

 

From there, well, you can guess where this story goes.

 

You should always change your wireless network’s name and password for this very reason. Tools like this exist to make users’ lives easier, but they inadvertently also make the lives of hackers easier, too.

Reinforce Your Wireless Practices with Us!

Point North Networks can of course help you shore up any weaknesses that might exist in your business’ wireless network policies and connections. With us on your side, you’ll have a staunch ally in the fight against cybercrime. To learn more, contact us at 651-2340895 today.

 

Almost 20% of Enterprise Windows Servers Lack Endpoint Protection… Does Yours?

We’re not shy about sharing how important it is for a business to have comprehensive cybersecurity throughout its entire infrastructure. That’s why we wanted to share what some recent data has shown about the importance of having visibility into your infrastructure.

Spoiler alert: it’s really, really important.

Data Shows that Enterprises Suffer from Considerable Vulnerabilities

Compiled by Sevco Security, the State of the Cybersecurity Attack Surface report took data from over 500,000 IT assets. This data, compiled from enterprise-level businesses, revealed that a substantial number of the assets these businesses rely on are missing critical endpoint protections or aren’t being actively patched.

 

According to Sevco Security’s research, the businesses they surveyed were lacking endpoint protections at a rate of 12%, while 5% of them were lacking enterprise patch management. Compounding these issues, 19% of Windows servers were missing endpoint protections.

 

Furthermore, “stale” IT—assets that are present in the security control console and register as installed on a device, but haven’t checked back in for a few weeks—is a small but serious issue for these enterprise organizations. 3% of the IT assets have stale endpoint protections, while 1% have stale patch management. However, since they are supposedly accounted for, these risks are harder to spot and more likely to create issues.

 

Of course, these findings were all based on research into enterprise-level companies, with enterprise-level capabilities. Now, just consider what that suggests about the small or medium-sized businesses and their comparative capabilities.

Trust Us to Help Prevent These Vulnerabilities from Presenting Themselves in Your Business

Part of our proactive remote monitoring and maintenance services is to catch these kinds of issues before they result in larger problems for your business. To learn more about how we accomplish this, give us a call at 651-234-0895 today.

 

How to Choose a Smartphone Now that Innovation has Slowed

Mobile devices have changed the world. They’ve definitely changed the way people do business. The prevailing sentiment is smartphone innovation has stagnated a bit over the past few years as most of the flagship smartphones are using extremely fast processors, data storage has moved to the cloud, and many other factors. Just look at the new iPhone, which traditionally looks just like the last iPhone. Today, we’ll take a look at what you need to know when buying your new phone.

The Modern Smartphone

With device reviewers becoming big business on platforms like YouTube, these reviewers have become the audience that smartphone manufacturers play to, even if the general public couldn’t possibly understand the year-over-year improvements that these devices have made. Consider that the biggest change in the smartphone over the past couple of generations is mostly improvements to the camera system while making marginal improvements to processing, data storage, etc. This indicates that most improvements are driven by the marketing benefits to be had.

The fact is that other than the folding phones most devices have very similar form factors. All flagship smartphones have a 5 nm processor or better, 356 GB of flash memory, 8 GB of RAM, and a bezel-less display. That said, savvy consumers are constantly looking for a specification upgrade, so it forces each iteration of a device to make marginal improvements (if only in name). If you think about how much you’ve paid for your current device, and how similar it is to the last device you owned—especially if you haven’t moved to a device with a brand new form factor—you may just feel like you aren’t getting the value for your money that you once did when you upgraded after two years of using a device.

What to Look for In a New Device

Before we get into what you should consider when looking for a new smartphone, we have to talk a little bit about form factor. The form factor of a device is how the device is built. As we stated above, most smartphones have laughably similar form factors. The ones that don’t are using innovative new OLED screens that allow the displays to fold in half. This presents users and app developers with interesting new constructs (with very large price tags), but for the most part, devices adhere to the more familiar form factor.

So what should you look for when buying your new device if you don’t want to pay a premium price for a foldable phone? Let’s go through some considerations:

Build Quality

The build quality of a smartphone may not have a lot to do with its ability to do what you need it to do, but devices that have better build quality will last longer and enhance the user experience. Most of the top-tier smartphones are built on a stainless steel or aluminum frame. These devices are typically draped in some type of tempered glass, such as Corning’s Gorilla Glass. The better materials used to make the smartphone, the more premium it will feel when you are using it.

Display

Today, most flagship smartphones come with impressive displays. For people that use their smartphones for media consumption, you will want a larger display with a higher resolution, but there are plenty of mid-range models manufactured today that have impressive screens that could have been found on a flagship phone only a couple of years ago.

Processing Power

This is where smartphones vary wildly. Most of the top-end smartphones have a multi-core 5 nm processor or better nowadays. This means that the top smartphones have the computing power of pretty powerful workstations that can fit in your pocket. The better the processor, the better the phone will be.

Camera

A lot of manufacturers will point to a high number of megapixels in their marketing, but the effectiveness of a camera is contingent on many other factors. Obviously, the features of the camera system: number of lenses and their focal length, ISO levels, pixel size, and autofocus ability have to be taken into account. Each year the camera systems on devices do improve, however, some substantially.

Battery

An often overlooked feature when buying new hardware is the battery life. For the smartphone, it is one of the most important considerations. After all, if a device has to be plugged in, it isn’t really “mobile”. Most phones that have upwards of 3,500 mAh batteries should do, but the foldable phones will use more juice than devices with the traditional smartphone form factor, so be mindful.

Operating System

Most phones typically have one of two mobile operating systems: Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android OS. The majority of phones will come with some semblance of Android on them, but not all versions of Android are created equal, so knowing what version of the OS your handset is on is pretty important considering it will dictate what apps you can run, how your device’s security is handled, and many other factors important to a clean and productive smartphone experience.

Cost

Probably the most important factor in the purchase of a new device is the cost it presents to you. If you are planning on buying one of the top smartphones on the market, you will likely be paying about $500 or more per year of use for the device alone (and that is if you don’t have to have it repaired). Mobile service providers mostly work with users to finance smartphones, but it can add a lot of money to your monthly bill.

Other Considerations

All other factors are basically the icing on the proverbial cake. There are devices with larger displays. There are smartphones built for gaming. There are ones that have huge batteries so they don’t need to be charged every day. Some users like to have a 3.5mm headphone jack, but most flagship phones have done away with them long ago.

Finding the phone for you may come down to these small features, but chances are that they won’t have as big of a role on the reliability of the device as the variables listed above.

Have you recently bought a new smartphone? What are the features that got you to buy the model you chose? Leave your comments below and stop back soon for more great technology content.

How Does Streaming Technology Work?

It feels like streaming is everywhere these days, from video content to music to video games. Coincidentally, it also happens that innovations in cloud streaming have allowed these entertainment mediums to flourish in “as-a-service” type offerings. Just how have the innovations in technology allowed streaming services to grow and expand? Let’s investigate.

 

What is Streaming?

Remember the good old days when you couldn’t stream video without it being a massive time sink or spending loads of time waiting for the video to buffer? Gone are those days. Streaming is the continuous transmission of video or audio content over the Internet. It’s what powers services like YouTube, Spotify, and other music and video streaming services. Even some games can be streamed over the Internet now. Essentially, the data for these files are stored on a server somewhere, then get sent a little bit at a time to the user.

The Difference Between Downloading and Streaming

It used to be the case that you would have to download the entire file before you could use it on your PC, but streaming offers a better approach. Rather than saving a copy of the file to your hard drive, streaming allows users to simply play them from their web browser through an Internet connection.

 

All that said, a big difference between downloading and streaming is that, well, it requires an Internet connection. Without a good one, your connection will not be stable, creating problems for whatever you are trying to stream. For example, a video might need to buffer if your Internet connection cannot keep up with the rate of download. In a lot of ways, you can compare it to the way that many companies rely on the cloud for their computing. While it is great to have the content ready and available locally, sometimes accessing it through the Internet is easier and more efficient. However, without that connection, access is cut off.

The Technology

When you stream something from the Internet, the file is split into data packets containing video and audio. These data packets are essentially compressed files that are designed to be sent and unpacked at their destination. Ultimately, how the streaming provider goes about doing this is up to them, and it is largely based on the purpose of the streaming and what value it provides to their customers.

 

For example, when streaming video content from Netflix, the quality of the video and audio is a pretty big deal. In comparison, a video conference with multiple attendees might prioritize connection with others for real-time interaction over the quality of video and audio.

 

Two of the more common transfer protocols used by streaming services are user datagram protocol (UDP) and transmission control protocol (TCP). They are typically used for two different types of streaming. TCP provides a dedicated connection between the server and the client to ensure that all of the content is received properly. UDP, on the other hand, cuts some corners, so to speak. The result is that TCP makes for a more reliable connection compared to UDP, but UDP offers a faster and more efficient connection.

 

In the aforementioned example, you might see how the two can be used for two different purposes. TCP is better when the content delivered needs to be lossless, while UDP is better in situations when some loss is acceptable. In the end, streaming providers go with the option that allows them to provide the best services possible to their clients based on the goods and services they are rendering.

 

We hope you learned something interesting and new about the technology behind streaming services with today’s blog.

Maintenance is More than Computer Repair

When you think of downtime, you probably think about the power or your Internet connection going out and leaving you unable to do work. Unfortunately, these are anecdotes that seem benign, but are actually extraordinarily costly. When interruptions to your business’ computing infrastructure are constantly hindering productivity, you need to come up with a solution.

Technology-Induced Downtime

The way your technology functions is extremely important to reducing the amount of downtime your organization suffers. When your network and applications unexpectedly fail and crash, you will see substantial dips in productivity, a metric that is hard to quantify.

The best way to explain this is to look at how downtime affects large companies. According to Gartner, the average cost of IT downtime in the enterprise sector is about $5,600 per minute. In fact, 98-percent of enterprises say that an hour of operational downtime can cost well over $100,000.

 

Now, as a small business owner, you may be thinking that downtime is bad, but at least we don’t see that type of loss…Well, think again. Percentage of loss is right in line all the way down to mom-and-pop businesses. If you were to have an hour of operational downtime because a server component fails, you are looking at a massive loss. Sometimes, these losses are fatal for businesses that are unprepared.

Other Problems

The largest problem with downtime of any kind is the money you are spending to get nothing out of it. No other place is this more evident than having situational downtime that affects a number of your employees. Say one workstation fails in your office and it results in one person troubleshooting problems with a break/fix or onsite IT administrator. Not only are you getting nothing from the employee, you are also paying the technician a premium rate to support that piece of technology. If you think about it, one failed computer in the peak productivity hours of the workday will cost you at least hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

 

Then you have to consider: what if that were my server?

 

You quickly will understand that it is completely untenable to not do what you can to avoid large swaths of downtime inside your business.

What You Can Do

There are a few things you can do to actively fight downtime. They include:

Proactively Maintain Your Technology

The best thing that you can do for your business’ technology is to get a managed services provider to actively monitor and maintain all of your network-attached hardware. With state-of-the-art technology, an MSP can not only see how all of your technology is functioning, it can typically fix issues these systems have before they can become downtime-inducing problems.

Keep Your Software Updated

Malware is a big problem for any business. As such, there needs to be an ongoing policy that keeps all network-attached software updated and patched for security vulnerabilities. An exploit of any holes in your software can turn into major downtime and even worse, so keeping software updated has to be a priority.

Isolate Problems

One of the best ways to keep downtime to a minimum is to use technology services to do so. A comprehensive help desk offering can keep downtime to a minimum by giving employees direct access to tech support. Most times the help desk technician can help resolve issues in minutes, and even if they can’t they can expedite situations to the proper maintenance channels.

Comprehensive Backup

Finally, every business that utilizes information technology to their advantage needs to protect the data and infrastructure by having a comprehensive data backup and disaster recovery platform. The BDR backs up data in-house, and in the cloud to give organizations the peace of mind that no matter what happens, their data is safe.

 

If you own a business, limiting downtime is a priority. If you would like to learn how Point North Networks helps minimize downtime, give us a call today at 651-234-0895.

Communication Tools Your Business Needs to Consider

The software you choose to use for your business largely defines the capabilities of it. When it comes to communications there are some very standard options that you probably already have and then there are some more innovative options that can have significant benefits for your staff. Let’s take a look at some of the standard communications options a business might use and how they can use technology to crank it up a bit.

 

Standard Communications Tools

Most businesses today give their employees multiple options on how to communicate with other members of the staff, prospects, and customers. Some are typical of every business, while others are a little more advanced and come with larger price tags. Some of the most utilized communications tools for business include:

 

  • Email
  • Telephone
  • Instant messaging
  • Documents

 

For most businesses, communications are split into two categories: Written and Verbal. Most businesses should have systems in place to cover both types of communication. As for written tools the most utilized, by far, is email. It presents you with an accepted and respected way to communicate with almost anyone that you would need to contact.

Email

Today’s hosted email solutions tend to have a litany of great and useful features that can not only provide a construct to clearly get your message across, but also manage incoming and outgoing messages. Most modern business email platforms include the following features:

 

  • Daily backup of emails
  • Virus protection
  • Encryption
  • Spam filtering
  • Synchronization
  • Push mail
  • Archival

 

These options typically provide users with everything they need to do business using email. Not only do modern email platforms have features to make the process of sending and managing email easier, many of them have started to integrate a fair amount of security features. A business’ email system is extremely important and a well-maintained and managed email system can go a long way toward giving an organization a great business tool.

Instant Messaging

Instant messaging is one of the more utilized written communications tools. Not every instant messaging application is created equal, that’s to be sure, but for the most part the convenience and speed of instant messaging can be a major benefit for any business looking to outfit themselves with one. Some hosted email platforms will come equipped with one, while other stand-alone IM platforms are also available. Recently, there has been a big shift in the development of collaboration tools that feature instant messaging as part of a larger platform designed to keep your people on the same page.

Documentation

One often overlooked communication tool your business may have is the ability to provide employees and customers with written resources like pamphlets, white papers, and other documents. Most businesses today want their staff and customers to be as educated as possible and creating a repository of useful information, whether they are in the form of pamphlets, FAQs, or some other useful documents can save time and be very valuable.

Telephone System

Probably the most important communications platform your company has is its telephone system. The traditional telephone system that you would get through a dedicated telephone provider has some functionality, but if you really want to make strides with your business’ communications platform, consider switching to a VoIP system. VoIP can be hosted onsite or in the cloud and can provide a lot of powerful features that the traditional telephone system simply cannot.

 

One of the features you can buy through any VoIP provider is seamless video conferencing. For remote teams, or even extremely busy teams, a powerful video conferencing solution will give you access to a tool that will allow you to spin up meetings in seconds and provide you with integrated options in line with standalone video conferencing tools. This will help you save money and standardize the entire calling experience. Some other VoIP features you can take advantage of include:

 

  • Automated attendant with advanced call management
  • Caller ID
  • Call queuing
  • Call following
  • SMS and MMS integration
  • Mobile device integration
  • Analytics

 

…And many more.

 

If your business needs help going over your communications options or if you simply need help getting the platforms you already have to function as you need them to, give the technicians at Point North Networks a call today at 651-234-0895.

 

The False Dichotomy of Smart Technologies

For years, we’ve heard about how machines are coming for our jobs. We may even know some people who have been replaced by machines of some sort. This has given workers an overarching fear that once the machines are smart and capable enough to do what they do, that they will be out on their cans with few real options. This is mostly a fallacy. Today, we will explore the notion that machines are out for our jobs and how they may actually work to make our jobs better.

 

The Correlation Between Automation and Downsizing

There is no secret that in order to run a business effectively you have to spend less than you take in. It seems like pretty simple math, but unless you’ve worked in management, you’d be surprised how little shifts in business make this possible sometimes. One regrettable way a company cuts their costs is to let their workers go. After all, payroll is still one of (if not the) largest expenses many businesses have. With new technologies being introduced that make it possible to replace the work of certain employees, it can cause some consternation and fear among the workforce.

 

Some workers are going to lose their jobs due to automation, that much is true. Some people–mostly those who had jobs that computer-based machines can do much faster and much better–will be casualties of their business’ shift in strategy. A good manager will find the resource that does the job that’s needed more effectively, and in today’s business environment, many times these are AI-driven smart technologies. That’s not to say that smart technologies don’t offer other opportunities for some workers, however.

 

Let’s take a brief look at one industry that is primed to be overtaken by automation: truck drivers. Today, several manufacturers are creating technologies designed to ship goods from one place to another using autonomous vehicles. This has been in the works for a while now, and it looks as if the technology is going to be a major disruptor in that industry. For decades, truckers were protected by unions, but as the unions started to lose their power, many became independent contractors. This leaves them no hope if the businesses they currently drive truck for start purchasing and using automated vehicles to move goods.

 

Furthermore, the aging truck driver may not have the skills necessary to compete for a similarly-paying job. The fear is that as technology becomes a disruptor in industries like this that the people that are cast out won’t have the resources to educate themselves for a new job; leaving those people to work lower-wage jobs, or worse yet, become dependent on the government. The business, which always wants to do more with less, can, but workers that are cast aside by this newfound efficiency become a cautionary tale. This is not ideal for anyone.

Strange, But True

This us vs. them story is the way of business. Competition is said to make the market economy possible. What isn’t often mentioned is that automated systems don’t have to replace workers. They will to some degree, of course, but the lion’s share of workers can thrive with the use of automated systems; especially the ones that learn as they go. Why is this narrative not observed more? It’s simple, the story of a person whose job responsibilities change with the deployment of AI isn’t as interesting as a story about swaths of workers that are displaced by corporate greed.

 

The truth is that many businesses will be using automation to make their employees’ work experiences better. There are a lot of procedural tasks that need to be completed, there are emails to be written and sent out, there are reports to be run. This is true whether you are a Fortune 500 company or a mom-and-pop pizzeria. The truth is that as it stands today there are a minimal amount of tasks that can (or should) be completed by smart tech. Automation can actually have an extremely positive impact on people’s ability to do work. It can allow businesses to cut costs while also providing a pathway to get their workers to focus completely on revenue-growing tasks. So the dichotomy between automation and the modern workforce doesn’t necessarily have to be disruptive, it can also be good for both the business and the worker.

 

For the company that is making the choice about increasing the prevalence of automation over the next few years, their workforce will be at the forefront of this shift, not left behind like many have projected. Let’s go back to the automated trucks. Every automated truck so far has required there be a passenger (driver) in the truck at all times to ensure things go smoothly. These shipping professionals may not be driving the truck as they did in the past, but they are still employed and with the benefits that automation brings to the industry, they will still be paid in line with what they were making when they were the operator of the vehicle. Companies will save money on logistics, fuel costs, and more, but as of this writing there aren’t many plans to cut out these professionals, just alter the job a bit.

 

What are your thoughts about automation and smart technology’s effect on the modern worker? Do you think that these smart systems will eventually replace the skilled labor fields, or do you think that people and machines can work in concert to provide better work environments and stabilize rising costs? Leave your thoughts about this issue in the comments section below.

 

Automation Any Business Can Fit In Their Business Plan

In modern businesses, automation can be implemented in a lot of ways, but for small businesses, it may be more difficult to find ways to incorporate time-saving automation. In this week’s blog we’ve decided to point out a few ways even the smallest business can use automation to their advantage and give their employees the freedom to focus on revenue creating processes.

 

Use a CRM

The efficiency of creating and sustaining leads can be troublesome for any business, but by utilizing the automated tools presented by a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system your business can improve your sales and marketing efforts quickly by automating some of the minutiae that comes with those efforts. By using a CRM you can improve customer satisfaction and completely manage your sales process. Most CRMs have the capability to handle the process of getting your business the right customers for the right products/services and then building that relationship without having to spend a lot of time and effort to do so.

Social Media Management

Social media is likely a big part of your business’ ability to attract new customers and interact with your current clientele. By using automated tools to schedule out your social media efforts, you can not only engage more people over more platforms, you can stay organized. Getting your message out over social media can be a fairly easy and repeatable process, a perfect environment for automation to help your business’ efforts in that arena.

Customer Support

The biggest problem for small businesses is typically that the amount of resources they can spend on support is lacking due to budgetary constraints. If the people that are responsible for the production of a business’ products/services are also given the responsibility of being the support system of those products/services, it can significantly reduce the advancement of those products/services. Today, there are many automated tools outfitted with artificial intelligence that can effectively handle a lion’s share of the customer support. Specifically, chatbots are a tool that can allow you to handle a series of customer problems without the need for workers constantly being available to provide support.

Meeting Scheduling

Having to constantly schedule meetings can be a time-intensive task as people have variable schedules that don’t always line up. This typically means meetings are held without people or serially rescheduled, reducing productivity and grinding workflows to a halt. Automating the scheduling of meetings and appointments normalizes scheduling and avoids conflicts while bringing enhanced efficiency to your business.

Procurement

With supply chains a mess, it can often be hard to get the components or products you need quickly. Today, businesses can use inventory management applications to automate the ordering of certain goods to ensure that goods are there when your business needs them. This can be something as simple as paper goods, but can also work on mission critical components as well.

 

Automation is giving small businesses the ability to compete with larger businesses in their markets through end-to-end advanced efficiency. If you would like to talk to one of our IT specialists about the integration of tools that allow you to save time and money, give us a call at 651-234-0895 today.