Today, if you tell someone you’ll be in touch, he or she may not only ask when, but how. Modern technology has dramatically changed the way we communicate, providing multiple ways to stay connected at any time. For small and medium-sized businesses, this means big opportunities to stay competitive, provided that they understand and use technology trends to their advantage.

Everyone is talking about cloud technology, which basically means remote computing, leveraging the Internet. This is great news for small and medium-sized businesses because cloud-based systems provide a plethora of tools, save costs and minimize maintenance. For example, cloud programs can help manage payroll, invoicing, phone systems, documents, customer management, business analytics and backup systems. Online cloud services commonly used by small businesses include Skype, Dropbox and Google Docs.

Social media’s growth continues to boom and businesses no longer have the option of ignoring this outreach potential. It’s cost effective and connects you to customers in ways never before possible. Using Youtube, Twitter, Facebook and blogs as part of your business’ social media program, can form relationships with key customers and the feedback they provide is invaluable.

Technology enables people to stay connected and work from virtually anywhere. Whether you’re working from home, at the office, or in a coffee shop, it is vital to be accessible at all times. Whether your preferred device is a laptop, tablet or smartphone, staying connected is a must.

Traveling is costly and time-consuming. Video conferencing is a low-cost way to meet with customers, prospects and suppliers from virtually anywhere with computer and Internet access. Common video conferencing resources include Skype, ooVoo and Cisco WebEx, making it easy to communicate with individuals or groups.

Apps are not just fun and games, many are made specifically for the mobile office, making on-the-go work easy. Plantronics Instant Meeting app, for example, allows one-click access to conference calls from a smartphone. Other useful mobile office apps include Documents to Go and QuickOffice, providing efficient access to documents, agendas and analytics.

Long distance phone calls to employees, customers and prospects can quickly increase a phone bill. Internet-hosted phone systems are becoming more popular because they are low cost, flexible and low maintenance. Skype is a good example of a voice-over-Internet service that allows individuals to communicate through video, voice and instant messaging using a headset.

Think how much more effective your communications would be if all your devices worked together. Fortunately, that is happening and the technology trend is aptly called Unified Communications (UC). It delivers voice, email, SMS, video conferencing and document sharing into a single interface so that you can easily relay any or all of your data to others.

With a laptop, Internet connection, Skype and a headset, you can conduct business from just about anywhere at any time. It’s a whole new world.

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