Top 5 Trends for Small and Medium Businesses

Where to go in 2012I was reading some forecast reports by IBM about Small and Medium Business (SMB) trends for 2012, and it’s reassuring to finally see an agreeable roadmap. In fact, here at TOAST.net we’ve been saying a lot of the same things as IBM for a few years now. SMB’s have under-invested in technology over the last 3-4 years, and in doing so have lost a lot of the edge needed to compete. Technology generates efficiency, which in turn lowers costs. Things that were preventing SMBs from expanding their technology base have been expense and the economy — understandable factors. However, 4 years ago nobody could have predicted the huge drop in tech costs due to cloud technology. It’s an exciting time for SMB owners because new advancements are allowing them to outmaneuver larger corporations and bring a competitive edge back to the marketplace. Here’s the top 5 areas SMBs should be focusing on for 2012 to stay ahead of the game:

Cloud Computing

The idea of running a server in-house these days will get you the same looks as asking the guy in Wal-Mart’s music aisle if they have Grand Funk Railroad on 8-track tape. On site servers are very impractical for the SMB — they’re expensive to run, expensive to maintain, present risk of theft, can be damaged, tend to be power hungry…there’s a long list of reasons they’re being shunned. As a shining example, I must speak to a half-dozen small companies a week having problems with their in-house Microsoft Exchange server. These people had their servers set up by a consultant ten years ago and have no idea how to adjust settings, correct problems, and in some cases they don’t even know who to contact for support. Hosting services such a mail, web sites, applications, and databases with a cloud service removes all of those problems. A web browser is used to log into all of your hosted services, giving you full administration without having to worry about the back-end support. The cost savings and efficiency of this move is astounding, so it’s no surprise so many business owners are making it part of their 2012 strategy.

Going Mobile

This point goes hand in hand with the Cloud Computing trend. Smartphone and tablet usage is skyrocketing. A recent study reported that 28% of smartphone owners use them as their primary form of Internet access. Mobile devices inherently have limited storage and are designed to use web-based apps, so a mobile strategy is important. Designing your business to go mobile allows productivity outside the walls of an office. Data and email can be accessed anywhere, therefore extending contact with clients. Some business platforms, such as Google Apps, cater to this strategy by integrating email, office documents, scheduling, and task management into one web-based product that is equally accessible from any PC, iPhone, iPad, or Android device. Employees aren’t tied to a desktop computer in a cubicle anymore, so their strengths now have a wider area of influence.

Storage

Offsite web storage is a huge focus on today’s SMB. Since nobody wants to keep an on-site server anymore, a centralized and secure location to store company data must be employed. Web storage allows company records and backups to be accessed from any location, as well as providing off-site backup and disaster recovery options.

Service Support

With the influx of all of these services and devices, training and customer engagement are high on the list for 2012. With any web-based service, you’ll want to make sure the proper resources are available to facilitate integration. I speak with customers all the time that need help because their transfer to a new mail system hit a snag and are not able to contact their host for help. Integration support makes moving to a new platform smooth and painless, and is a required resource when modernizing an infrastructure.

Consumerization of IT

With IT staffing being reduced and workloads increasing, SMB’s have been either enhancing or replacing their existing internal IT options with services. Managed Services are greatly increasing in popularity (as I mentioned previously) because they take a lot of the monitoring and updating responsibilities off of internal staff and place it on a hired service. The top contenders in IT services are antivirus and patch management, with other areas such as applications and online backup coming in second. Automation of standard yet critical IT functions brings costs down and allows more time to focus on other projects or expansion. 2012 is going to see heavy use of these services.
I think it’s a pretty accurate list. Where are you going to be focusing your resources next year?
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3 Responses to Top 5 Trends for Small and Medium Businesses

  1. Sue Jenkins says:

    I dont mean to jump on this thread but im thinking oftrying out this company to do marketing on my blog does any no anything about them, they are located in london so im told. i cant find any reviews on them – Rod Gardner and Associates, 19 st Helens Gardens, London, W10 6LW – 0207 558 8957

  2. Sorry Sue, that’s a bit out of my realm of expertise.

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