Top 10 tech upgrades to make your small business run faster

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If you run a small business, you know that things happen faster than they do in the corporate world. Thats all the more reason to make sure your technology is up to date and is able to keep up with you and your employees.

If you're lucky enough to have extra funds in this year's IT budget, or if you're planning to invest in incremental improvements, here are 10 tech upgrades that will help your employees get things done faster in 2013.

1. Switch to 802.11n Wi-Fi

If you're still running a 802.11b or 802.11g Wi-Fi network in the office, it may be a good time to ramp things up a notch by rolling out an 802.11n deployment. A faster wireless speed not only allows for a better experience. It also makes it possible for the network to serve a greater number of wireless devices, since it takes less time to complete each data transfer.

Wi-Fi n

A relative dearth of laptops with three-stream (450 Mbps) support means that deploying two-stream Access Points (APs) capable of 300 Mbps access speeds should work great for most businesses. In addition, make sure you acquire business-grade APs capable of operating simultaneously on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency band.

2. Upgrade to network attached storage (NAS)

The file servers of yesteryear-full-fledged server machines running server operating systems and equipped with multiple disk drives-offered a convenient, centralized location for file sharing. Today, network attached storage (NAS) offers similar features, but with substantially greater power efficiency and upgradability.

Much of this power efficiency can be attributed to the low-power Intel Atom or ARM-based microprocessors used in modern NAS appliances. Furthermore, most vendors recognize that storage demands do increase over time and now sell expansion chassis that lets businesses add more disk storage without having to purchase another NAS. Indeed, rapid improvements on this front mean that some SMBs may even find it beneficial to replace an aging NAS device with a newer model.

3. Consider gigabit networking

If your core network is still bumbling along at a Fast Ethernet speed of 100 Mbps, consider upgrading it to Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) for a 10-fold increase in throughput. To put this upgrade into perspective, a large file transfer that took 15 minutes to finish at 100 Mbps will take less than two minutes when transferred over a network operating at 1,000 Mbps.

GbE used to be expensive, but proponents will point out that gigabit network switches are affordable today. In addition, they work over widely deployed CAT 5E cabling. Finally, GbE is built into most desktops and laptops, and it's necessary to support 300 Mbps 802.11n Wi-Fi APs.

4. Use a docking station with Ultrabooks or laptops

Businesses with workers who rely heavily on laptops or Ultrabooks may want to invest in a docking station to expand their workstation connectivity options. Unlike proprietary docks sold by laptop makers in the past, today's docks typically connect using the standard USB interface. As you can imagine, this allows your dock investment to be reused with newer laptops.

Docking station

It's important to note that a dock eliminates the need for peripherals such as keyboards, mice, speakers, and network cables that must be plugged in and unplugged all the time.

Using wired Ethernet, too, offers faster and more reliable network connectivity as it frees up wireless capacity for workers not at their desks.

Finally, some newer docks, such as the Targus USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Dual Video Docking Station, support two external monitors, which makes setting up a multi-monitor rig easy.

5. Deploy multiple monitors

It's well established that using more than one monitor helps improve productivity and boost user satisfaction-in some cases by up to 50 percent-since you spend less time toggling between application windows. Unfortunately, most SMBs dither about spending money on something that does not deliver an immediate and tangible return.

However, with 23-inch LCD displays available for as little as $150, businesses may want to consider a limited deployment or a pilot study. At a minimum, SMBs should consider deploying one external LCD display of reasonable size for laptop users. This will help reduce eyestrain by replacing the smallish laptop displays with something that is comfortable.

Next: Upgrade RAM, store data in the cloud and more

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