While they may not have the same resource pool from which to draw, small businesses can get a much-needed productivity boost from three key technology areas that are sure to keep them in the game
Mobility-enabling products continue to grow in popularity. Why? According to the iPass Mobile Workforce Survey, 93 percent of respondents believe mobile technology makes them more productive – and in a recent CDW survey, respondents pointed to mobility via unified communications solutions as a top way to boost productivity.
Netbooks, tablets, e-readers and Web-based applications are also helping business professionals stay in touch. Netbooks and tablets in particular continue to resonate with small businesses as a cost-effective way to mobilize their workforce, with many issued to managers, sales and service personnel who spend significant time away from the office.
Netbooks have remained quite popular. Lower prices and improved designs have increased their popularity and driven demand, but you won’t find too many bells and whistles. Netbooks are not a category where you’re going to see a lot of innovation. The very concept of the netbook confines it to the most essential functions at an affordable price.
In addition to the portability and convenience that netbooks and tablets provide, these technologies also play a critical role in business continuity. Enabling your employees to telework in any situation can minimize or prevent the impact of a business disruption. Additionally, prices have come down on netbooks and tablets, with newly advanced models released each year, increasing their attractiveness.
The popularity of mobile technology extends beyond netbooks and tablets. The demand for smartphones as a core communications tool also continues to grow. Enhanced computing capabilities and a wide variety of business applications confirm that smartphones are star players not likely to retire anytime soon. While BlackBerry and iPhone continue to be a popular choice, new models have claimed a spot in the rankings, with Android-based smartphones in particular growing in popularity as 4G coverage expands.
As with netbooks and tablets, it is important for small businesses to consider their specific mobility needs before choosing one piece of technology over another. If your employees simply need to access email on the go, smartphones may be the only solution you need – but be sure to consider all platforms before choosing the best tool for each employee.
Another up and comer on the mobility team is unified communications (UC), the integration of real-time communication services such as instant messaging, presence information, telephony, video conferencing, data sharing, call control and speech recognition, with non-real-time communication services such as unified messaging, which integrates voicemail, email, SMS and fax. If you are interested in the UC tie-in to mobility and how it might benefit your organization, check out CDW’s recently released UC report, which looks at attitudes, approaches and progress toward the adoption of UC technology.
Storage – fast and easy
Small businesses can take steps to simplify data storage with fast solutions, a necessity for any organization with data that continues to grow exponentially, contained in email and electronic documents. Currently, many businesses are considering network-attached storage (NAS), which is a hard-disk, file-based data storage solution accessed via a network. NAS provides high speed access to varied clients, improving data sharing.
There are countless NAS options available and each original equipment manufacturer (OEM) offers a wide range of devices varying in price, performance and capacity. Additionally, most NAS solutions now come with built-in data backup tools for added protection and convenience. Some of the more sophisticated devices include multiple drives which provide more data protection and added capabilities, such as mirroring and expansion opportunities. Some NAS devices now include built-in wireless connectivity, taking data storage and file sharing a step further.
Landlines no more
It’s time to hang up the landlines and switch to VoIP. This set of capabilities is more than a product or set of products – it is a clear method of dramatically lowering costs, especially when compared to plain old telephone service (POTS). Businesses that take advantage of VoIP can save almost 40 percent on average on local calls, and as much as 90 percent on international calling.
VoIP can also save about 40 percent in cabling costs for new buildings. Even the smallest businesses should have no problem combining voice and data infrastructure into one system that is easy to manage and provides all the core tools a business needs. VoIP funnels voice traffic over the Internet, delivering easier accounting and management as well as voice mail, call forwarding and video conferencing, tying back to the move toward mobility. For small professional services firms, such as law or engineering firms, VoIP-based phone systems can even track calls and provide records for billing purposes. Small businesses can also reduce travel expenses through audio, video and multimedia conferencing and collaboration tools. This happy merger easily translates to more productive employees at a lower business cost.
Like the previously noted mobility products and storage solutions, VoIP will expand and evolve. Without a doubt, businesses will continue to search for affordable products that offer substantial solutions and, in turn, shape market trends. It is not surprising that the latest trends we see in the small business market revolve around mobility, storage and communication – the savings and productivity benefits that accompany these items are beyond compelling.
Technology will continue to develop, and while our economy continues to look up, efficiency is a key player that will never strike out. By revisiting your approach to mobility, storage and VoIP, you will soon find your small business playing in the big leagues.