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Unified Communications: An Entrepreneur's Best Friend

I'm in Orlando, Fla., this week "on vacation." As a small business owner, I can't afford to fully unplug from my business. Sure, managed service providers keep my company running even when I'm focused on family time. However, I still need a mix of unified communications and mobile technologies to really keep the business optimized.

Here are three key technologies that can give me -- and my customers -- peace of mind while I'm (mostly) unplugged from my business.

1. iPhone 3G: I wasn't a big fan of my iPhone 3G when I initially purchased it. Dropped connections seemed quite common during the first few weeks with the device. But the iPhone 3G has proven to be a great device for my business travel. I can monitor our company Web sites, Internet traffic patterns, reader loyalty, reader comments and more from the iPhone's browser.

My family cringes when I open a laptop during vacations. But smart phones can let you quickly check in with your online business operations during long waits in amusement park lines or during other natural "breaks" in the action.

This week, my laptop hasn't escaped from my travel bag. And I'm typing this blog from a multi-user terminal at the hotel. Thanks to Web 2.0, most of the applications I need to access live up in a cloud rather than down on my laptop.

2. Managed Services: Our company Web sites serve thousands of readers worldwide each day. I don't have time to manage those systems during vacation. Nor do I want to worry about optimizing their performance, keeping systems patched, and safeguarding everything from probing eyes.

Our managed service provider hosts everything for us; automates system patch updates to our database, application server and content management systems; and backs up all of our systems daily as part of a fixed monthly fee.

We know exactly how much our managed Web services are going to cost every month, and we don't get distracted managing system optimization efforts. We leave that to the experts.

3. 'Follow Me' Unified Communications: I must admit, I'm not using this service yet. But I need "follow me" unified communications to make sure urgent calls and inquiries are routed automatically to me. Customers with urgent needs don't care if you're asleep or on vacation.

For urgent matters they want rapid response. I've adjusted my voicemail to let customers know I'm on vacation. But some sort of follow-me service -- routing urgent calls right to my iPhone or my current location -- is a natural next step for my next vacation.

And that reminds me: It's time to get back to vacation.