Top Tech Trends for Small Business in 2014
If you run a small business, it is never too early to assess your technology needs and create a game plan for the new year. Forward-thinking small business owners know they need to stay on top of new technologies to stay competitive. We will discuss three technologies – employee-owned mobile devices, cloud storage and mobile marketing – and explore how they can have an impact on your business in 2014.
"In a Techaisle study, 54% of small businesses say their technology “pain points” have increased in the last three years."
1. Device Diversity Management
The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement is growing. In a BYOD office environment, employees use their personal mobile devices to communicate and collaborate. Given the advantages to the business, such as higher productivity and lower mobile costs, you can expect this trend to continue in 2014. But despite the benefits, BYOD presents some challenges. It requires you to manage a diverse range of devices. In the CDW 2012 Small Business Mobility Report, 36% of small business IT managers say some employees have replaced a desktop or laptop computer with a smartphone or tablet. An additional 20% of IT managers predict more employees will do the same by 2014.
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 from BYOD malware, make sure every device has a secure browser that offers frequent security updates. You should also employ 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. AirWatch, Good Technology, and MobileIron are established MDM providers.
"Almost 59% of small and midsize businesses fully support the BYOD trend, according to a Spiceworks, Inc. survey. In fact, BYOD is even more popular in companies with fewer than 20 employees."
- AirWatch offers enhanced mobile security, application security and management, mobile content management and mobile email management. It provides MDM solutions for companies of all sizes, especially businesses with broad MDM needs.
- Good Technology’s offers enhanced mobile security, application security and management, mobile content management and mobile email management. It provides MDM solutions for companies of all sizes, especially businesses with broad MDM needs.
- The MobileIron offers enhanced mobile security, application security and management, mobile content management and mobile email management. It provides MDM solutions for companies of all sizes, especially businesses with broad MDM needs.
It is also a good idea to establish a clear BYOD usage policy that employees can both understand and follow. 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.
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. Mobile Marketing
Mobile marketing is advertising on a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet. Mobile marketing can provide customers with personalized time- and location-sensitive information that promotes your products and services.
There are mobile marketing tools that can help you promote your company in a matter of hours. You can create instant campaigns to very specific locations using mFlyer by Moasis. For instance, perhaps there is an event near your business this weekend. You can create a promotion that is specifically tied to the event or activity and immediately attract consumers in the area. You can decide when to turn it on and off and in what locations the mobile flyer will be seen.
Mobile marketing plans can include the following formats:
- Email marketing
- SMS (Short Message Service) or text message ads
- Social media search ads
- App display ads – the ads placed within mobile applications
- In-game ads, which appear before, during and after many mobile game applications
- MMS (Multimedia Message Service), which is similar to text message but instead of text only, the format contains a video, slideshow or photo
"A survey by Yellow Pages found that 40% of consumers search for local information on their mobile devices daily, so optimizing your website for mobile viewing should be a priority in 2014."
Here are some tools to help get you started with your mobile marketing efforts.
- Email Marketing. Programs like Constant Contact or Mailchimp help you from start to finish by building a list then creating and distributing professional-looking emails to new and loyal customers. Consider offering your regular customers special deals created just for them.
- Social Media. A free mobile app called Perch gives you a view of all the social deal activity in your area. You can use this to see how neighboring businesses are engaging customers through Facebook, daily deals sites, Foursquare, Yelp and other digital platforms.
- Mobile Messaging. Websites like TextMagic, TXT180 and mobileStorm can provide a wide range of tools for sending multimedia and text messages that can complement your email marketing campaigns.
There has never been a better time for your small business to take advantage of mobile marketing to help get your message to a local audience. Evaluate your mobile presence in relation to how you are connecting with consumers via more traditional approaches. In doing so, you will be able to better gauge how your marketing efforts are matching the increasing mobile activity of your customers.
Mobile device management, cloud computing and mobile marketing can help your small business stay ahead of the competition in 2014 and beyond.
How Can Time Warner Cable Business Class Help?
Wideband Internet Access: Time Warner Cable Business Class (TWCBC) Wideband Services simplifies online backup in the cloud with data transfers at speeds that scale up to 50 Mbps. Wideband also enables large-scale business needs such as internal and external large-file sharing, streaming video and online order processing.
TWCBC Web Hosting: A professional web presence, powered by our web-hosting service, 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. Our website templates require no coding knowledge for fast and easy setup. Select from plans that meet your needs based on your website size, traffic and e-commerce functionality.
TWCBC Cloud Services: A flexible, cost-effective solution from Time Warner Cable Business Class can deliver the IT services your business needs, right when you need them – without the cost and complexity of managing them in-house. TWCBC Cloud Services help 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, 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.
Let TWCBC Cloud Services streamline your communications by moving your on-premise email, file sharing and backup services to the cloud. With free on-boarding and 24/7 support, we make transitioning to the cloud fast and easy.
Online Backup: Time Warner Cable Business Class Online Backup makes it easy to back up data on your company’s computers to a secure, off-site location. There is no special hardware to purchase or maintain. Instead, by following a few simple set-up steps, an Online Backup software client automatically manages the process through the network. A user-friendly administrator portal makes it easy to set up and manage multiple users, whether they are located at the same business site or remote locations. Administrators are kept up to date with email alerts and reports on the backup activities of their users. With TWCBC Online Backup, small business owners can relax with the knowledge that their company data is safeguarded, minimizing the risk associated with unexpected losses.
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