3 Keys to Making Smart Technology Purchases

Business runs on technology. Even if your office only needs the minimum — perhaps a computer and a printer — you still have to decide what to buy and when to replace it. Most offices have a lot more than just one computer and an accompanying printer these days, though. There are scanners, copiers, laptops, mobile phones, and a slew of industry specific gadgets that can make your business more efficient.

As a small business owner, it's up to you to sort through the options and make sure the equipment you want and need doesn't break the budget. It can be a delicate balancing act, but, done properly, it can ensure that your business has the tools it needs to grow.

What Features Are Important to You?

Even if you're a one-person operation, you probably have critical technology needs. Take printers, for example. There are hundreds of different models available and they certainly are not all the same. That means taking the time to read up on what you're buying and make an informed decision. That's what Jennifer Chiongbian, of Buy and Sell Manhattan did: “I recently purchased a high end printer. It was not the cheapest, but I took into consideration the lifespan of the cartridge and cost per page. My average output for black and white and what I normally did for color. I did my number crunching as far as my usage. It would eventually be cheaper for me in the long run; especially since I had just switched companies that used to print my stuff for free."

Exactly what factors you need to consider depends on your business and your goals. Purchase price is usually a key factor, but efficiency and quality count, too. Other factors such as the gadget's environmental footprint may be important to you, as well. Whatever those important factors are, focus on them first and foremost. Chiongbian continues, "I always consider my typical usage, output and history with a product before switching brands or purchasing some office equipment that is vital to my business. I also ask myself the question, 'Do I really need it, or do I just want it to look cool?'”

Get the Information You Need

Many websites, notably Amazon, feature in-depth product reviews from real customers that can help you get a better idea of the usefulness of a particular item. It's also easy to simply start with Google, as Lisa Kanarek of WorkingNaked.com does. She says, “When I'm evaluating technology purchases, I start with Google and type in the type of product I want (printer, Web cam, etc.) and then I start reading reviews from techie Web sites. I also go to the Web sites of online retailers and read the customer reviews. If something has low ratings, I move on to the next product.”

For larger items, it may be useful to see them in action before you make a final decision. If you know someone who uses a piece of equipment you're interested in, arrange a visit and see it in action. You'll also be able to ask about typical maintenance items and refillables and so on. If you can find a registered dealer or a local sales representative, you can often also arrange to see a demonstration.

Don't Be Afraid to Spend Money for the Right Tools

Last year, Brian Searl's team at Insider Perks all got iPads. "We use them to edit our website, upload files, troubleshoot, collaborate, edit video and photos and about a dozen other things. For an average price of $700 dollars each, they basically replace a desktop computer and allow our employees much more freedom.”

Such a purchase may seem extravagant, but Searl's philosophy is simple. "How much can we get accomplished using the tech and does that make it worth the price either now or in the future. I've seen quite a few businesses shrug off more expensive purchases in favor of saving money now. Two years later they are making another purchase while we're still satisfied and have no need."

Ultimately the decision boils down to your budget and your needs. Maybe the advanced model with extra features really is right for your business but maybe you really don't need the latest and greatest. Budgets have to be balanced with the potential improvement of your bottom line. It's never wise to spend frivously, but don't be afraid to budget big when it matters.


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