The outlook for 2013 is generally not great in the eyes of small business owners as costs continue to rise, government regulations continue to change and taxes continue to increase. Due to the many uncertainties in the business realm, small businesses – as a whole – have avoided embracing any new technologies. This is expected to change this year.
Embracing New Technologies
Small businesses are looking toward growth this year and, in order to achieve this growth, many of them will turn to new technologies, such as mobile technology (smartphones), the Cloud and social media. The outlook on new technological trends such as these is surprisingly positive; many businesses believe that these trends are here to stay and will positively affect their business growth.
The latest Cbeyond Business Leader Snapshot Study asked how companies plan to use technology in 2013. According to the study, the most important technology tools for businesses are:
- Network access, such as high-speed, always-on Internet access (94% of study participants)
- Computer/software maintenance, such as software/antivirus maintenance and desktop support (94% of study participants)
- Applications (Apps), including the security, productivity and collaboration software (91% of study participants)
- Mobile services, such as the use of smartphones and tablets (90% of study participants)
- Cloud services (82% of study participants)
Cloud Adoption Expected to Soar
While it was slow to take off, the Cloud is now expected to make its way into the small business landscape. In fact, many Cloud users have said that it would be challenging to operate their businesses without Cloud services now that they have come to rely on them.
This statement is not surprising, as most Cloud users are highly satisfied with the results they’ve obtained from using Cloud technology. These results – including improved flexibility, productivity and cost-savings – are expected to win over many more small businesses in 2013.
Many companies are planning to expand their Cloud services to a vast array of business functions this year. While many small businesses are aware of the Cloud’s data storing functions, they may be surprised to know that there is much more that can be gained from the Cloud, including:
- Banking (such as online banking and cash management)
- File sharing
- Data archival
Becoming More Social
Social media use has increased over the past year and is expected to gain momentum in 2013. While many companies are using social media, it’s become apparent that they are not using social media sites strategically. Companies cannot simply rely on posting random tweets or event specific Facebook updates. This will not build brand awareness on the social media scene nor will it improve your marketing results.
To truly gain something from social media, businesses need to align their social media activity with their business goals, measure the outcomes of their social media efforts and realign their strategies as needed. Companies who adopt social media strategies and measure their efforts are most likely to benefit the most from social media; otherwise, companies are just wasting their time. Social media, when used correctly and purposefully, can be of significant value to small (and large) businesses.
Smartphones and tablets are not only changing the way consumers research and purchase products, but they are also reshaping the small business IT market. Mobile business apps are becoming increasingly popular among small businesses, as are mobile-friendly websites and mobile commerce adoption. This year, small businesses are expected to continue embracing the mobile trend and developing mobile-friendly websites, applications and commerce options.
While it is true that mobile devices are not cheap, they are generally less expensive than PCs and infinitely more portable. Many businesses are willing to incur the costs of smartphones and tablets, particularly if their employees are out in the field.
While it’s been on the horizon for years, many small businesses are just now realizing that they need to address mobile technology in their company policies and procedures. Expect small businesses to focus on developing security policies and mobile device management strategies in the upcoming year.
The Need for Data Protection
Data security is a hot topic for small businesses this year. If 2012 accomplished anything, it was to increase our awareness of natural disasters. Hurricanes, fires, superstorms and power outages are never expected, but they can occur in the blink of an eye. Without a data backup plan, companies stand to lose business-critical information. Small businesses who do not currently have a data backup plan are encouraged to create one today.
Investments for data backup, security, server virtualization and desktop virtualization solutions are expected to rise in 2013. Fifty percent of small businesses are planning to purchase and/or upgrade their current security solutions in the upcoming year. Businesses incur a large amount of data every day and – in order to stay in business – must have a strategy in place to protect that data.
Companies are expected to re-evaluate their passwords, implement security software, invest in backup solutions and create a disaster recovery plan. While this will not prevent disasters from occurring, it will safeguard the company and increase the chances for staying in business post-disaster.
Stay tuned to learn how CRM, Business Intelligence and ERP solutions are changing and reshaping the way businesses use these technologies.