For most small businesses, especially those in the Texas Panhandle, adopting new technology solutions is a gradual process. It’s not as simple as throwing away old computers, tablets, and servers and bringing in thousands of dollars worth of new technology every time Microsoft or Apple has an update. It’s a matter of give and take. Small businesses, with the help of an IT specialist, will need to decide what is most important to them when advancing their technology.
The IT trends for 2016 will look similar to those of past years...and that’s because they are. Only this year they are becoming increasingly important for small businesses to adopt. This doesn’t have to happen by January 1st, and it may not have to be completely finished within the year, but small businesses need to at least begin the adoption process of the following technologies right away.
The following IT solutions have the power to bring small businesses into the Digital Age, increase productivity, and ultimately, increase revenue. Here’s what’s trending for small businesses in 2016:
Cloud backup and recovery
Increasingly, companies are relying on cloud backup services to keep their precious data safe in the event of data loss. This is one of the most important things a business can do, especially if critical patient or customer data is on the line. When choosing a cloud backup service, important things to consider are the amount of data that the cloud service allows, how fast their recovery times are in the event of a disaster, and how much it costs. Finding an unlimited cloud backup service with very fast recovery times is best because, as all small businesses know, downtime is money lost.
At catmandu, we always recommend Carbonite, a cloud backup service that uploads files automatically (without human intervention) and securely. Their recovery process is extremely simple and takes only minutes. Businesses could suffer data loss and be back on their feet with little downtime.
Of course, cloud backup is not enough by itself. Businesses also need to keep a local backup of their important data just in case.
This one is a bit more exciting than data backups. As the workforce becomes younger and younger, employees are demanding that mobile technology becomes a part of their workday. They aren’t doing this because they want to play on their smartphones all day. They are doing this because they know that the future is mobile and utilizing smartphones and tablets has the ability to increase revenue and productivity.
How? To name a few reasons, it gives employees the ability to ditch physical copies of papers when on sales calls, it allows them to make sales and collect payments on the spot, and it can be tied in with CRM software to make the customer acquisition process automatic. It makes the sales process convenient for the client and faster for the business. Employees can work remotely from virtually anywhere in the world while still bringing in money for the company.
Mobile technology is also a vital part of an online marketing strategy, which we have written about on the catmandu digital blog.
In 2015, security was the number one tech investment and this is expected to continue into 2016, according to Computerworld. This is because businesses have begun to realize that the internet is a dangerous place and it is not just huge entities like Sony and the United States Office of Personnel Management that get hacked. Increasingly, small businesses, with their lax security, are the targets of cyber criminals.
Viruses and malware are also a huge threat and anything that is connected to the internet is vulnerable including tablets, laptops, servers, printers, smartwatches, and phones. In 2015, we even saw cars getting hacked while driving on the highway. Security is a huge concern, and rightly so.
What can small businesses do right away to tighten up security? Hire a managed service provider such as catmandu. We can asses the network and let businesses know of any and all security flaws. These days, it takes a professional to understand all that needs to be done to maintain tight security. For a FREE network assessment, fill out this form.
Better CRM software
A Customer Relationship Management application that actually fits with a business can do wonders for productivity, sales, marketing, and profits. Conversely, a CRM that doesn’t quite do all that a business needs it to do can have surprisingly damaging effects on the bottom line. A good CRM has the ability to efficiently manage client relationships from marketing to acquisition to sale. It should be able to integrate with other tools that businesses use such as Quickbooks, Office 365, and MailChimp.
CRMs are important because they allow everyone in an organization to know what’s going on from one central location, they give businesses the analytics they need so they can know if things are going well, they perform automated marketing tasks, and most importantly, they improve the experience for the customer.
Software as a service
It used to be the case that users would have to buy a physical copy of Quickbooks (as an example). Now Quickbooks is available conveniently online and users pay a monthly subscription fee. This is the same for the Adobe suite of design programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, and Premiere Pro. Now all of the Adobe programs are available via Creative Cloud, a desktop application. This is called Software as a Service (SaaS) and most software available today is available as SaaS.
SaaS can take businesses to a new world of productivity because it allows applications to be updated constantly and the cost is usually included in the monthly fee. Businesses don’t have to suffer with old versions of programs just because they don’t have the budget to upgrade. SaaS can benefit small business because of lower startup costs, a pay as you go basis, and a decreased need for IT staff intervention since the actual software company manages the app. SaaS is also more likely to be integrated with other applications, such as a CRM, and it is scalable, which means more users can be added by simply changing the monthly subscription, rather than expanding server capacity and adding licenses.