Technology is evolving at a rapid pace, especially today as major tech giants are moving towards more rapid releases and continual improvements. Nobody can deny that technology plays a vital role in running a successful business, however some of the top IT technology trends that we see emerging are unrealistic or irrelevant to SMBs. It can be helpful to have an awareness of these new IT technologies but very few SMBs are going to start using tech trends such as AI or 3D printing in 2016 - and nor should they if they have no real business benefits.
While some of these trends have been around for a little while, it can take time for a new IT trend to become realistic and accessible for small and medium-sized businesses. Whether this is because the solution has matured, become affordable or added new features that were required. Technology giants such as Microsoft have realised the demand for SMB technology, so many of their solutions that were previously only realistic to enterprise-levels businesses are now affordable to any size business.
This is an extremely exciting time for SMBs who can now access and use software and solutions that had previously been unavailable to them, so we wanted to share our insights into some top IT trends we think SMBs can embrace in 2016 – or already are!
Security is becoming a high priority for any sized business, especially in light of many highly publicised data breaches and security attacks. The UK government reported that 90% of large businesses and 74% of small businesses had a security breach in 2015. Now, SMBs can benefit from more advanced security solutions that are still cost effective, such as Advanced Threat Analytics, so we predict that 2016 will see a rise in security focus for SMBs (as well as in the enterprise market).
While businesses may want to embrace the cloud immediately there are often considerations to be made of even reasons why certain data needs to remain on-premise. This is where a hybrid cloud model can be the answer; allowing your business to leverage the benefits of both on-premise and cloud technology in a tailored solution. Hybrid cloud was named a 2015 key IT tech trend but we think it’s here to stay and will especially grow in the SMB market.
The rise of cloud computing has given businesses the ability to access documents and applications wherever they are. As cloud computing increases, so will user mobility. Large corporation such as Apple and Microsoft realise that users want to access their favourite apps on whatever devices they prefer. Last year saw the launch of Office apps for iPhone and this cross-device compatibility for software is likely to continue as more user’s access business files and apps on their smartphones and tablets.
As mobility increases so will the number of devices that employees use, as well as using a combination of personal and business devices. This makes device management much harder for IT departments who must enforce their IT policy for security purposes. With around 80% of employees admitting that they download non-approved apps, Mobile Device Management (MDM) will be a priority, if it already isn’t.
Luckily, there are some brilliant MDM tools available to SMBs, such as Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) and if you’re considering Office 365 then this actually comes with some mobile device management.
Many SMBs have already started the transition to the cloud and are already realising the benefits. For those who haven’t 2016 may be the year to consider migrating some services to the cloud as a way of slowly adjusting. For those that are using the cloud, 2016 will likely see an increase in cloud usage as other services follow the migration to the cloud and ultimately a reduction in on-premises infrastructure.
A key benefit of cloud technology is its scalability, giving businesses the ability to easily grow their infrastructure to keep up with rapid growth, as well as being more flexible through subscription payments and only paying for what you use.
Having a business continuity plan is vital and disaster recovery (DR) and backups play an important role. On-premises solutions can be resource-consuming and more difficult to manage, which is why we predict an uptake in cloud backup and disaster recovery solutions (such as Azure Backup and Azure Site Recovery). These have a number of benefits, such as allowing businesses to only pay for what they use, automating backups and being incredibly scalable without having to manage the infrastructure.
Having simple integrations across business systems helps save staff time by removing the double handling of information and allowing syncing across systems. When looking at new solutions it is worth considering how the system integrates with any existing line of business applications or existing software that your business is using. Having a simple out-of-the-box integration (such as between the Office suite and Outlook) means you do not need additional resources now or later to develop upon and connect the system.
Effective internal communication and collaboration increases productivity as well as helping to build a better work environment and team culture. With the rise of social media businesses are also turning towards social collaboration, with solutions such as Yammer, Slack, Asana and Skype for Business. We recommend Yammer for social collaboration and Skype for Business for communication because they are both included with Office 365 making them cost effective and fully integrated with Office and Outlook.
… and talking of Skype for Business we haven’t even mentioned Skype PBX! While there isn't a lot of public detail about this, it could be another game-changer by being able to replace your office phone system while also being included within Office 365. We'll just have to wait and see!
There is no ‘one size fits all for IT’. As every business has unique requirements, pain points and goals, its IT should be tailored to address these. With any new solution that you consider you must weigh the benefits against the drawbacks but it’s always great to know what’s out there as new technologies could have a dramatic benefit for your business.
If you are looking at any of the above solutions or don’t feel that your technology is helping your business, we can help to consult on or manage your IT; please get in touch.