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Use Technology Solutions to Improve Business Organization

Advances in recent years have transformed solutions for companies of all sizes. Here are a few technology investments small international businesses should consider.

1. Move to Cloud Computing

Laurie McCabe, partner at SMB Group, a technology market research group based in Northborough, Mass., suggests using cloud computing, which allows data storage and software applications to be stored on the Internet.

Instead of purchasing software online, international business owners can rent based on their need, and access applications through a Web browser, desktop or a mobile app. Data is then stored on a remote server. This replaces the need for clunky desktop software programs and eliminates expensive data storage hardware, thereby reducing costs.[1]

There are now 5 billion mobile phones worldwide. And in some countries, such as South Africa, there are more phones than people.

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There are plenty of cloud-based management and accounting programs that can bolster small international businesses' IT investments. For example, instead of installing an accounting software program on a desktop computer, a small business might use a cloud-based bookkeeping program, such as Outright or Freshbooks.

2. Consider Mobile Technology

There are now 5 billion mobile phones worldwide. And in some countries, such as South Africa, there are more phones than people.[2]

Small international businesses can benefit from this trend by creating apps and mobile websites that make it easier to sell to customers who are on the go. For example, a business owner in the U.K. may want to optimize his website so U.S. customers can scroll through products and make purchases via their smartphones.

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Business owners and their customers can also use helpful technology in business, such as a trusted online foreign exchange provider that allows people to submit international payments in multiple foreign currencies - with the convenience of doing everything online - using their laptops, tablets and smartphones.

3. Use Relevant Social Media Tools

From Facebook to Twitter, every small business owner should consider integrating some social media component into his or her operation. It's an inexpensive way to create brand awareness on a small budget and connect with current and potential customers.

When doing business overseas, however, McCabe says it's critical for small businesses to be keyed into the popular local social platforms. For example in China, RenRen or Qzone are the country's version of Facebook, while Sina Weibo is a version of microblogging that blends qualities of Facebook and Twitter. While in India and Brazil, Orkut, a social networking website that is owned and operated by Google, rivals Facebook.

4. Business Intelligence and Analytics

As consumers create more data, it is becoming even more critical for small businesses to figure out how to tap into it, McCabe says.

Business intelligence services like Bime, SAP, Birst or Actian can help small businesses wade through the data in order to gain insights on how to improve their operations. This is especially important for business owners who are located in different countries than their customers - because good data can help them understand how purchasing habits and consumer preferences are changing.

Just keep in mind regardless of a small business's industry and size, there are a host of technological advances that can simplify the life and work of an international small business owner.

[1] "5 Cloud Business Benefits," Oct. 16, 2012, Wired magazine

[2] "The Benefits of Mobile Health, on Hold," The New York Times, March 13, 2013

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