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Small Business

Managing Your Business

The Explainer: 10 Tech Terms For Business Owners to Know

CRM, CMS, SEO, ERP: Understanding the Acronyms

Technology—and a good grasp of it—can help companies stay relevant and compete these days, especially when they're up against larger entities.

But when it comes to tech, are you as knowledgeable as you should be? Here are some terms that might boost your tech vocabulary:

Cloud: Generally speaking, you're using the “cloud" when your files or programs are stored or hosted on a server that you access via an Internet connection. It can be used as a secure backup for files, but also as a way to access software less expensively. This cloud isn't located somewhere unobtainable in the sky, instead, it is often a datacenter full of servers connected to the Internet.

SaaS: Software as a service. SaaS describes a method of accessing software via the Internet. "You can now subscribe to software at a low monthly fee without having to buy a license, which is usually considerably more expensive," says Saravanan Chettiar, founder of Strive Benefits, a mobile app for small business employees.

CRM: Customer relationship management. “In its simplest incarnation, it is simply a database that keeps customer information, name, address, etc.," says Alan Canton, managing partner of NewMedia Create. “I find that the most important part of a CRM record is the 'log,' or a running group of notes about contacts the business has had with the customer—subjects of calls, relevant data, and even what they have bought and when." As a business owner, you can obtain a CRM software program to help you manage this customer database.

CMS: Content management system. This is a kind of software that enables workers to create and edit website content, making it easy for more employees—not just the web-savvy ones—to handle company web editing. Generally no knowledge of web programming is needed.

POS: Point-of-sale. “This is the generic term for technology attached to a checkout location, either online or near an actual cash register," says William Bauer, managing director of Royce, a leather goods company. “New mobile point-of-sale solutions ... use smartphone-attached card readers, so payments can be processed just about anywhere."

Responsive design: This is a technique for creating websites that can change the way they're displayed, depending on the device being used — smartphone, computer or tablet, for instance — and provide the most user-friendly layout for that device.

Virtual merchant: A retailer that uses a website to sell goods and services. They accept electronic payments, making it possible for customers to shop, buy, and have items shipped to their home without ever visiting a store — although virtual merchants may have brick-and-mortar stores as well.

ERP: Enterprise resource planning. This kind of software makes it easy for a company to wrangle different parts of the practice — such as marketing, product planning and accounting — in one location. It helps make dissimilar types of data comparable, making it possible to see how an action will impact each segment of the company.

SEO: Search engine optimization. “Search engine optimization is a set of tips and tricks that can help your website get discovered on major search engines like Google," says Hannah Wright, digital marketing specialist for web form company FormAssembly. “If you follow SEO best practices, you'll be well on your way to ranking higher than other local small business competitors."

Search engine marketing: This is the practice of using a search engine (such as Google) to bump up traffic to your website. You might also use paid search, in which you pay to have your site pop up when users search for certain key words.

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