We get asked frequently about what’s new in the market and our thoughts on where the smart money should invest in technology. If you read the blogs and articles that focus on the enterprise space, you will find that experts are suggesting “internet of things”, “big data” and “flash array storage” among other top trends. Upward focuses on the small to middle market of a smaller “big city” (Portland, Oregon), so our experiences and predictions on what’s going to be hot will be downstream from the enterprise space. Tech trends tend for the small to midsize business space tend to follow two to three years after enterprises.
But you don’t have to be an enterprise to take advantage of cutting edge technologies that can help your business to create a competitive advantage or improve operations. Here are the top 3 tech trends for 2016 that we agree will be important for most small and midsize businesses:
If you have a Microsoft environment, which well over 75% of all businesses do (according to Microsoft) the chances are you will be using Microsoft Azure in the next 12 months. Azure is Microsoft’s answer to Amazons Web Services cloud, or any of the other hosted cloud services on the market today. What makes Microsoft special is the speed at which they are gobbling up market share, the range of things you can now do with Azure, and the enormous amount of capital Microsoft has invested in their systems (over $15 billion to date according to Microsoft).
Where most companies who are not currently in Azure will first enter the solution, is through hosted Active Directory. Active Directory verifies your identity and grants you permissions every time you log into your network. Microsoft is going to strongly encourage (or force depending on how cynical you are) most environments to use Active Directory via Azure going forward, because it will allow all access to all Microsoft services and permissions to be dynamically managed from the cloud, including access to your own local network! The benefit to this is that you will have one password for all things Microsoft, so security and permission changes will be instantaneous across all applications.
Once companies are using Azure for this, it is an easy transition to move server data, backups, database or application to Azure servers as well. You will be seeing more Azure very soon, we promise!
SharePoint & Custom Software Development
Every day we see customers struggling with multiple data silos, antiquated manual data entry and kludgy, static web pages in their organizations. In the past, creating custom software was an expensive, risky project that conjures up the mental image of a room of offshore coders quietly typing away at raw java code.
In actuality, tools like SharePoint, which now comes bundled with Office 365 in a lightweight version, opens the opportunity to solve many business problems inexpensively, and it can be designed, built and maintained with just one or two bright coders. This has brought the price and accessibility of custom software to a whole new strata of the market. Here are some high-level points on how to utilize SharePoint to make your organization better here.
We recommend that every business owner spend time speaking with their operations and sales people to determine where there is low hanging fruit that technology might be able to solve.
It probably sounds like a broken record by this point, but security is again likely going to be a very big topic in the year to come for small and midsize businesses! The reason is simple, SMB’s are easy targets. Although the corporate treasure of a Fortune 500 or Enterprise level company may be more attractive to a malicious group, it’s the small and midsize businesses that are the easiest and most vulnerable. Targeting enterprises is like playing a sophisticated game of poker, and targeting SMB’s is like playing slots (with unlimited coins).
Three trends we have witnessed first-hand are an increase in spear-phishing ( read a story about spear-phishing here) and ransomware. Either of these situations can pose a significant financial threat to any company. A common response we hear from customers is: “I don’t care that much about my data to want to spend any money on it”, or “why would they bother targeting me when there are such bigger fish to fry.” The fact is, if you find yourself in one of these situations it can be very expensive, and it will feel violating. Statistically, it is a matter of when, not if you will have a data breach, particularly if you don’t employ best practices (See best practices for security here)
Although the tech trends above are relatively mundane, they carry huge implications for almost any small or midsize business. Companies need to digitally innovate to stay relevant, and it is more expensive to do it reactively than with forethought and careful planning. Ask your IT provider how you can get your business ahead of the competition.
Contact Upward today if it is time to consider new thought leadership on how to move your company forward!