Straight to the Recycling Heap
Today’s business environment is more advanced than ever—which means that it’s easy to ditch the tech trappings of the past. Here are some technologies you can safely jettison now.
In the old days, it wasn’t uncommon for a small business to drop several thousand dollars on an entry-level file server just to manage file storage and maybe a printer or two. Many small businesses keep adding servers to the office out of habit, but why? For simple file-sharing needs, a high-capacity network-attached storage (NAS) device can do the job for a fraction of the cost, and even basic printers can often be networked, no server required.
Compared to typical laptops, Ultrabooks store less data, run slower, have fewer ports, and will become obsolete faster. And they cost more. These svelte numbers are sexy companions for the hipster crowd, but your business’s budget will probably be better served spent on a workhorse laptop that will fit your needs for years rather than months.
Fancy phone systems to manage a few dozen lines? Sure, if you’re running a customer service operation, but most small businesses can now get by without the headache of on-site phone hardware. Services like RingCentral give you a virtual phone system that works with any telephone infrastructure. In fact, while we’re at it, you can also dump...
In most of the country, wireless infrastructure and coverage has become good enough for even high-call-volume business users to ditch their wired telephone service. Don’t want to pay for a new iPhone for every incoming employee? Have workers use their own handsets and agree to subsidize the cost of the plan.
With virtually every computing task now available via the cloud, the old "incompatible software" argument against migrating off of Windows no longer holds. Whether you want to use Macs or Linux-based equipment—or a combination of all of the above—for many businesses, switching operating systems is now as simple as installing Firefox or Chrome on the computer of your choice and carrying on as before.
On-Site Backup Hardware
When I worked in IT, dealing with the nightly backup system was a headache that no one enjoyed. It never seemed to work right, and restoring files (when you had to) was a huge pain. Now you can not only get rid of the tape drive, you can quit doing local backups altogether: Online backup services can keep your business data safe with a much more reasonable investment, and far fewer headaches.
Pitney Bowes makes some really lovely equipment that can weigh and stamp your mailed goods—but the fees for renting these devices can be hefty. Unless you have a high-volume mailing operation, a simpler and more affordable solution like Stamps.com makes more sense. You even qualify for a commercial rate when you use this print-it-yourself service.
Today’s laptops are tougher than ever thanks to design refinements like fall detectors and upgrades in materials that replace plastic with magnesium. Chances are, if you drop a computer or phone today, it won’t shatter into a million pieces on impact. The paranoid and butterfingered may find extended warranties good insurance. Most users can safely jettison them.
Credit Card Processing Equipment
Stand-alone credit card swiping machines or—even worse—old-school “knuckle-dusters” are almost completely irrelevant today: Numerous mobile payment startups are now on the credit scene, letting you use your tablet or smartphone to run credit card payments without additional hardware that you have to rent. Processing fees are also more affordable than ever—so another thing you probably can do without is dealing with checks and cash.
Topping every office manager’s list of complaints: the fax machine. It’s always out of paper or ink, and 90 percent of what comes over the wire is literally trash. Solution: Toss it. In an era of easy access to scanners via all-in-one printers and e-fax services, stand-alone fax machines just don’t have much use any more. You’ll also save money by ditching the dedicated fax line.