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How to Choose the Right Technology

Technology. It touches us all - in every part of our lives. We use it. We interact with it. Our businesses would not function well without it. This column, Tech Watch, is about technology, and especially how we deal with it.

I am not a techie, but I use technology in my work - developing web sites, shooting fine art black & white photographs. I also work in the world of low-tech. I wrote a good portion of this article with pen and paper. I walk in both worlds.

Key considerations for deciding what technology to adopt for your business include: need/ purpose, cost effectiveness, and desire.

Need and purpose. One key to using technology effectively is to get the technology that does what you want it to do. When you do that, life gets simpler, easier, more satisfying. You (or your employees) are freer to do other things, or the same things in greater depth. This means you have to plan, to think about what you want the equipment or the software to do. And this takes energy and time.

When I was renovating my home, my plumber strongly suggested I get a fax machine. We were both making one hour trips back and forth to settle things that needed paper or signatures. I gave in. Well, that fax machine has paid for itself over and over. Not only did it save the time we had anticipated, it allowed me to get permits that minimized construction delays (time as well as money.) I got what I wanted, and much more. I was pleasantly surprised.

I have a car phone. I drive long distances, sometimes at night, in desolate country. I was told by a long-time resident to buy a gun, carry it, keep it in my car, to get a gun rack. I thought he was joking. My solution was to get a car phone. It has become an important business tool. I use it to confirm appointments, find obscure addresses and stay in touch with my studio. This piece of technology has many uses and is worth the minimum fees paid to stay in touch with business colleagues and to offer myself a measure of protection. A multi-purpose piece of equipment.

Cost effectiveness. You don't want to pay for technology you don't need or won't use. Do you really need the latest, fastest Pentium computer (for which you will pay a premium), or will the one that's a bit slower be just as effective for what you want it to do? Measure the costs against the results.

Okay. Desire. It would be easy to limit this discussion to what you need and cost effectiveness. But, desire, satisfaction, what you want and what you like are also important. If you love a piece of equipment or software you will use it. And use it. And use it. You will learn it inside and out. It will become your friend, and you will be able to do more with it than you ever dreamed (and maybe even more than it was designed to do.)

I had always wanted a laptop. So, I bought one - in 1987 - my first computer. It was perfect: a DOS based PC with an orange screen and 64k memory. It proved more valuable than I could ever have imagined. It was ideal when I left New York to travel West in a trailer, when space was at a premium. I loved that computer. I did my banking on the road with my computer. I wrote my first book on it. I did spreadsheets for a family business project, got myself a label printer and made up my own databases. I still have that computer. It's never crashed, and only the CMOS battery has been replaced. I want to upgrade it, but I've been told that's not a good idea. My point is that if you love your equipment, you will use it.

In future columns we'll talk about networking computers, how to establish effective voice mail systems, and other subjects based on reader interests. Please write -share your experiences, ask questions. This is meant to be a column that helps all of us. Lets us laugh at what we do, discuss options to common problems and become more comfortable with technology.

Paula Hendricks is owner of Paula Hendricks & Associates, which specializes in Creative Marketing Services & Web Site Development - anything to do with information communications.

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