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3 Things to Look for in a Service Plan

An optional service package can protect your technology investment and keep your network running

It’s happened to all of us at one time or another: A much relied upon appliance or electronic device dies the day after the warranty expires. Although annoying and frustrating, you can live a day or more without your TV, iPod, or dishwasher.

When you’re a small business, though, your network is your lifeline—it connects you to your community of customers, partners, and suppliers. Having your network go down because a key component (such as a switch, router, or storage device) has failed can cost you in lost revenue and customers as well as the price to replace the faulty equipment. By some estimates , the average financial loss due to network downtime costs companies 3.6% of their gross annual revenue.

Often, the product warranty just isn’t enough. That’s where a service plan comes in. These optional packages provide investment protection for your network and will keep it—and your business—up and running. This can be especially beneficial for small businesses that have limited or no in-house technical support.

Service packages vary in term length, coverage, and cost. Here are some things to look for when comparing plans:

Hardware replacement: When a network component fails, you want the fastest replacement possible. Look for a service plan that will deliver a replacement product the next day, at the very least; or, even better, within hours.

Software updates: Getting the latest upgrades and bug fixes keep your network devices performing at their best and reduces the risk of potential problems.

Multiple support channels: Choose a plan that provides more than one way to get the help you need, such as online chat, phone support, and a support community forum or knowledgebase.

A plan should provide comprehensive service so you get the most value from your technology investment. A service plan that keeps your network running smoothly, like Cisco Small Business Support Service, will help save you money, make employees more productive, and allow them to better serve your customers—ultimately, making your business more competitive.

What’s your experience with service plans? Share your advice with other small businesses here.

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Know the Security Implications of Social Media

Sites like Facebook and Twitter are a great way to promote your small business, but they also present some risks

There aren’t many Hollywood Movies that I get excited about, but I’ll admit that “The Social Network“, the movie about how Facebook got started, is one I’m looking forward to seeing. Facebook has enabled me to find long-lost friends and to keep in touch with relatives who are scattered around the country. But the use of Facebook also has its dark side.

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Collaboration Tools for Small Business

Share knowledge and expand your company’s reach with collaboration tools

This article is a follow-up to my last article, The Secrets to Attracting Business Online.  Once again, small business expert Guy Kawasaki has tips for small business owner Ronald Banks, but this time the topic is collaboration tools.

Companies of all sizes increasingly are looking to technology-based business collaboration tools to communicate more efficiently and effectively with co-workers and clients.

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Channel Partner Contracts: Things to Consider

I love a catchy title! No. Seriously. I really do.

But certain things in business are worth reading, even if you know they’re not very exciting, and you just spread a fresh coat of paint and were hoping to sit back and watch it dry. Channel partner contracts are especially likely to be so excitement-challenged, but don’t let that unfortunate tidbit lull you into a false sense of security. After all, whether we’re talking about battlefields or legal contracts, landmines are never intended to be all that noticeable.

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Voice security is just as important as data security for small businesses

Learn the four most common threats that put your IP phone system at risk

There’s a big story about phone hacking that has kept newspapers in the U.K. and U.S. busy over the past month. Some former reporters of a popular tabloid newspaper in the U.K. have claimed that hacking into the phones of celebrities and members of the Royal Family was rife at the paper. The publication of conversations and messages between celebrities may be fun to read, but the unauthorized interception of communications inside businesses is no laughing matter.

The security of your small business phone system is just as important as the security of your network. Consider if someone hacked into your phone system and compromised your company voicemail. What could they learn? You need to be as diligent about voice security as you are with data security, particularly if you use IP telephony.

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