Small Business Technology Trends
John M. Haddad
Many of the same trends continue in 2016 from 2015. Two trends are destined to dominate the small business technology arena in 2016—the cloud and security. And as small businesses add more cloud services, the need for security becomes more apparent. But even small business owners who want to keep their IT resources in-house will invest heavily in security this year.
In addition the growing usage of mobile technology will also exert a growing influence among SMBs. Let’s look at a few trends for 2016.
The Cloud will continue to grow for Small Business
The “cloud” is poised to continue to replace many on-premise systems such as file servers and desktops and provide better collaboration, file sharing, and backup solutions. This is part of a larger trend in small business IT: leave the technology to the specialists.
We find that more businesses are choosing to to use cloud services to maintain their technology, deal with the headaches of ongoing maintenance, performance and downtime. The goal is to let business owners focus on their customers and grow their business … and leave the technology to the experts
We find that with cloud services such as Google Apps for Work, businesses can get most applications they need, such as enterprise level email, word processing, spreadsheet, presentations, collaboration, file storage and sharing, video conferencing, chat … and much more at a fraction of the cost of buying all these applications separately. The main advantage of the cloud services over packaged applications is that these cloud applications are constantly updated and patched with any security issues.
Small businesses can also lighten the load by backing up their data files in-house and then transmitting the data offsite at a more leisurely pace. It is imperative that businesses have both a local and offsite backup. Read our post on No Backup? No Data, No Business.
There are many other popular cloud based services, such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM), sales and marketing automation software that are targeted for firms with fewer than 25 employees.
Are cloud services right for you? Contact us to set up an initial consultation.
Security still on the forefront for Small Businesses
Small business owners better get ready for more cyberattacks. A type of malware that locks a computer or computer system, ransomware renders the data and systems inaccessible until the victim pays the ransom. If left unpaid, the perpetrator typically threatens to either delete the data or release it to the public. Criminals now are using “ransomware” to target SMBs and extort funds.
Security for a small business can get complex very quickly. Few small business owners want to deal with firewalls, anti-virus (AV), anti-malware, intrusion detection systems, intrusion prevention systems, and more. When you then factor in rampant data growth, the data security field looks more like rocket science.
We find that many small business owners feel overwhelmed, confused, and completely inadequate to deal with the magnitude of the seemingly endless potential for digital security breaches that could wreak havoc on their business.
What’s important is to focus on the data that is most important to your business, such as customer records and employee records or any other data that represents your biggest risk both legally and financially if compromised. Ensure that that data is fully protected in case of an attack or business disaster.
If you use, or plan to use, third-party cloud providers, be sure to select your vendor carefully. Small businesses should avoid using consumer-grade tools or tools with inadequate security. Solutions such as Dropbox for storage of files may be great for consumers, but ensure that the right level of security is used with these products to protect your company from data breaches.
Mobile technology continues to grow
Deploying mobile technology is one way to reduce IT complexity because, in many ways it encapsulates many ongoing trends; it puts the technology into the cloud, and it eliminates the need for internal IT.
With the trend toward more mobility seeming inevitable, the difficulty for SMBs becomes which mobile apps to add. In addition, more and more of your customers are going to engage with your business via mobile phones and tablets. Is your website mobile friendly or are you still using your website that was designed over 5 years ago?
If you old website displays text very small and causes your customer to pinch and zoom to read it, they will quickly leave your site. Make sure your site loads fast, is easy to read and easy to navigate on a mobile phone.
Mobile payments are also on the rise. Using products like Square Register can give your business the capability to accept payments anywhere.
The level of technology deployed depends upon size and the type of small business. According to SMB Group surveys, small businesses that view technology as critical to improving business outcomes outpace their peers when it comes to business growth.
Smaller companies are better off keeping things simple and working back from core functions rather than trying to keep up with much larger competitors in all departments. For example, your website might be able to get away with looking hokey when compared to Fortune 500 companies. But if your site isn’t mobile-friendly, you may be in trouble.
While small businesses don’t need expensive and elaborate technology to protect their data like the large companies have, they still must utilize the same processes, procedures and best practices of large companies. There are much less expensive technology solutions for small businesses, but ensuring these best practices are in place should be on top of the agenda for small business owners.