Certainly, today's always-on-and-available-anywhere technology can lead to addictive work habits. We've all seen examples of that among friends and family.

But having a cheap, convenient, 24/7 global reach through technology can also efficiently enable you to live the life you've always wanted. The choice is yours.

Here are some affordable tools and ideas that harness technology's power to save you time and money.

  1. Use Voice-over-Internet protocol phone service (VoIP) to create a virtual office.  
    To maintain a professional phone line and still travel, take time off or live abroad, VoIP telephone services are a terrific help. You've probably heard about such affordable services, which, basically, use the Internet to send and receive calls. Usually, you pay only for Internet access and not for calls, much the way e-mail works.

    There are dozens of VoIP providers to choose among. Try a Web search if you don't know one.
     
  2. Use online services for office communications and banking.  
    If you host your company computers on external servers, you can access all e-mail, files, and financial information or transactions from any Internet café. (Of course, you do want to have privacy safeguards in place when working this way.)
     
  3. Leverage the power of a professional Web site.  
    Setting up a Web site, more than any other technological helpmate, will shave considerable time and effort from your workdays.

    With a professional site, you can more efficiently conduct business, fulfill orders, organize contacts, share documents with employees or contractors, and market your wares or services, even when you're out of the office or on the road.

    For more about launching a site, see the Microsoft Office Live Small Business offerings. Once your site is up, you can bolster its effectiveness by keeping customers, stakeholders, or media up-to-date with an online media kit.
     
  4. Use your site features to stay in touch with customers.  
    With so many marketing channels and consumer options these days, increasingly, it's the business that quickly responds to customer needs that gains a competitive advantage. You can use your Web site to "listen" and react to what your customers request.

    For example:
    • Set up an online forum so customers can register and post comments to you and to each other.
    • Set up a survey that customers can take online. This can be a focus group type of survey (say, about a new product) or a customer satisfaction survey. 
    • Set up a special e-mail address and ask customers for specific feedback or advice whenever you launch a new product, service, or special promotion.  

To get more tips, read the full article by by Joanna L. Krotz.