Local businesses are scrambling to keep afloat in the face of ongoing global economic pressure, loadshedding, water shortages, unseasonal heat (or cold) and rate hikes. While there are no quick fixes to any of these, technology can help alleviate some of the burden by allowing SMEs and their employees to work more flexibly.
Says Euphoria Telecom CEO John Woollam, “On-demand services like cloud computing, VoIP telephony, solar by subscription can help SMEs weather the storm and keep the lights on without investing hundreds of thousands of capital that they can ill afford.”
Below, Woollam highlights some of the services SMEs can consider taking up to enable them to be remote, mobile and flexible.
1. On-demand computing power – cloud computing offers SMEs on-demand access to the services they need without needing to invest in upfront hardware, software and implementation services. Office productivity suites, ERP systems, networking, storage, and more are all available from cloud service providers and accessible wherever you are as long as you have a laptop/mobile, a login and an internet connection. This means you can move around to avoid load shedding, and work at your own convenience. You can also scale usage up and down to account for peak periods – like month-end billing or end of quarter sales drives – as you need to.
2. Solar by subscription – Effective backup power solutions are becoming an essential, as it’s increasingly clear that Eskom’s challenges are not going to be resolved in the short-term. The initial outlay for solar systems has made them prohibitive for most people and businesses, until recently when solar by subscription or rent to own solar providers have started offering fully-functional solar solutions for an installation cost and a monthly rental fee. These are grid-connected, which means you use grid power if your battery is flat, or for high demand appliances like the stove. Plus, you’ll be able to feed power back into the grid once the regulations to enable that are finalised, so you may be able to make some of your cost back. And of course, it’s a tax deductible business expense.
3. VoIP telephony – Being tied to your landline is a major inhibitor to flexible working. VoIP telephony solutions offer a fix by enabling you to login via your laptop or smartphone using a browser-based softphone or mobile app. This means your teams – yes, even your call centre staff – can work from home or at work or elsewhere that they have the power and internet connection they need and have the same access to your telephony solution as if they were at their desks.
Aside from enabling you to carry on working as normal in a situation that is decidedly not ideal, flexible working practices will also enable you to expand your talent pool and be more attractive to new hires. Hiring critical skills from outside your area or even the country becomes a lot more viable if you’re already working from multiple locations. For rare skills like IT specialists who are being courted by global providers offering euro- or dollar-based salaries, flexible work hours and locations is a definite drawcard.