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Small Business Technology Trends for the Next 12 Months

If you run a small business, now is the right time to assess your technology needs. Forward-thinking small business owners know they need to stay on top of new technologies to stay competitive. We will look at 3 technologies that are making there way into the small business arena – employee-owned mobile devices, cloud storage, and big data marketing – and explore how they can have an impact on your business over the next year.

Instead of conceptualizing IT as an independent business necessity, more executives will begin to see the value of using IT as an integrated, strategic business driver. Leadership will ask more thoughtful questions about their IT function: What are we doing? Why are we doing it? What is working? Why? What is not? Why? As the IT industry continues to mature and evolve, this business segment will join operations, human resources, sales, marketing, finance and administration as a core business function.

1. Device Diversity Management

Through 2018, the growing variety of devices, computing styles, user contexts and interaction paradigms will make "everything everywhere" strategies achievable. In the CDW 2012 Small Business Mobility Report, 36% of small business say some employees have replaced a desktop or laptop computer with a smartphone or tablet. An additional 20% of small businesses predict more employees will do the same by 2014.

The unexpected consequence of bring your own device (BYOD) programs is a doubling or even tripling of the size of the mobile workforce. But, BYOD poses a slew of threats to your company’s data security. Hackers have created new ways to exploit the vulnerabilities of employee-owned devices to access their employer’s information. To help protect your business, make sure every device has a secure browser that offers frequent security updates.  Enterprise policies on employee-owned hardware usage need to be thoroughly reviewed and, where necessary, updated and extended. This policy should address critical issues such as password protection and the risks of downloading third-party apps. To help ensure compliance, you could have your employees sign a copy of the policy.  You should also consider Mobile Device Management (MDM) tools that give you visibility and control over the devices accessing your networks, including the ability to locate lost or stolen devices, and remotely remove sensitive data. 

2. Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is becoming popular with many companies, but it is especially well-suited to resource-strapped small businesses. Not surprisingly, a recent Spiceworks survey revealed that more than 62% of small businesses are currently using some type of cloud-based service. Studies by Logicalis, an international IT provider, suggest that by 2014 nearly 80% of all organizations will pursue a private cloud strategy. The attraction is obvious – cloud computing typically requires no capital expenditures or a team of in-house IT experts, and you pay only for the services your business needs.

The reasons for cloud adoption may vary, but lack of data storage space is a leading factor. Because providing more capacity for storage and backup can require a considerable amount of time and money, many businesses consider outsourcing those functions. Service providers offer cloud storage and backup services in a number of categories:

•    Primary storage provides the storage space for the primary copy of data.
•    Secondary storage is for storing a replica or secondary copy of data.
•    Data backup stores primary data in the cloud in case the primary copy is corrupted, destroyed, lost, or compromised.
•    Data archive provides long-term cloud storage of rarely accessed data as part of a backup strategy.
Other reasons for cloud adoption are potential cost reduction, on-demand scalability and virtually anytime, anywhere collaboration.
•    Cost Reduction: Cloud computing enables the use of various computing services without requiring a large capital outlay for hardware or software. Charges are based on usage or a subscription model, usually in the form of a monthly fee, so you pay for what you need at the time.
•    Scalability: Paying for servers and their associated expenses (such as HVAC and maintenance) requires you to predict and pay for future demand - whether that storage capacity is needed sporadically or on a continual basis. Cloud storage provides high levels of scalability and flexibility that allow you to increase or decrease your usage easily through a portal or with a phone call.
•    Collaboration: With the inherent issues of syncing multiple operating systems and applications, heterogeneous device environments increase the need for cloud software and collaboration. A study by Forbes Insights found that more than 60% of executives believe cloud-based collaboration tools help businesses execute more rapidly than would be possible otherwise, which can lead to faster responses to competitive challenges and accelerated product development.

3. Big Data Marketing

Small businesses have access to plenty of data, from sales receipts to Facebook Insights to Google Analytics, and much more; 2014 is the year when there will be new understanding on how this data can help their business, as [there was] with mobile two years ago and social media five years ago. Small businesses will find more insights they can quickly use to their benefit, such as what time of day is best to send out their email marketing campaigns and what types of social media content spark the most engagement for their business. The importance of mobile will come into sharp perspective as small businesses learn how many of their email-marketing "opens" occur on mobile devices. With these Big Data insights, small businesses will run smarter, more affordable, and more successful marketing campaigns.
Mobile device management, cloud computing and big data marketing can help your small business stay ahead of the competition in 2014 and beyond.

How Can CHS Tech Solutions Help?

Cloud Services: A flexible, cost-effective solution from any of our partners can deliver the IT services your business needs, right when you need them – without the cost and complexity of managing them in-house. CHS Tech Solutions helps employees access and seamlessly share emails, contacts, calendars and documents, as well as synchronize information in real time, on virtually any PC, iPhone, Android™, Blackberry®, or tablet using Microsoft® Hosted Exchange 2010/2013, SharePoint® 2010 and Outlook®. And, you, the business owner, do not have to invest in the latest software and hardware or IT resources to manage all of these activities.

Online\Cloud Backup: CHS Tech Solutions Online Backup makes it easy to back up data on your company’s computers to a secure (HIPAA Compliant), off-site location. There is no special hardware to purchase or maintain. CHS Tech Solutions monitors the backup process and alerts you to when things go wrong. Online Backup is especially useful for small business with a mobile workforce, whether they are located at the office or remote locations, there data is backed up. With CHS Tech Solutions Online Backup, small business owners can relax with the knowledge that their company data is safeguarded, minimizing the risk associated with unexpected losses.

Web Hosting/Development: A professional web presence, powered by any of our web hosting partners, can help your business stand out from the crowd. We offer a variety of cost-effective, upgradeable plans that can scale as your business grows. We use website templates that require no coding knowledge for fast, easy and very cost effective design and setup. Only pay for your needs based on your website size, traffic, and e-commerce functionality.