What does a 21st century SMB look like?

What does a 21st century SMB look like?

Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) today may still have the same interior design, office furniture, and employees, but one thing has clearly changed in recent years: technology.

21st century organizations are realizing the value of implementing the latest IT solutions, and thanks to that they are working faster than ever, more flexible than ever, and have become real contenders in the market. If you want to see how your business stacks up against today’s companies, here’s a look inside the modern SMB.

Virtual office environments

Visit any contemporary office, and you’ll see how little paper is used on a daily basis. Thanks to cloud technologies, employees can simply store their files in a hosted server and retrieve them with any internet-connected device. Unlike filing cabinets, cloud storage solutions like OneDrive for Business are flexible, giving SMBs access to nearly unlimited storage space.

Even traditional software is increasingly being replaced with cloud environments. More often than not, you’ll see companies using web-based software like Office 365 to simultaneously collaborate on Word, Excel, PowerPoint files in real time.

These solutions affect offices in two ways. First, instead of being chained to their desks, employees have the flexibility to take work wherever they go and stay productive 24/7. And because enterprise software can be accessed by virtually any device, it’s not unusual to see employees bringing their own smartphones, tablets, and laptops to work. In fact, 1 in 2 businesses will adopt bring-your-own-device policies by the end of 2017, according to Gartner.

No more landlines

Cloud technologies have also made traditional landlines obsolete by introducing a new era of business communications. Instant messaging apps enable staff to share documents and photos, and provide input quickly. Voice over IP systems such as Skype offer the modern office worker call routing, recording, and auto-attendant features to never miss important calls. Meanwhile, video conferencing features grant users the face-to-face contact they need to connect with stakeholders and other employees.

By utilizing feature-rich communication channels, teams can work together despite being miles apart. What’s more, VoIP systems can integrate with customer relationship management software, giving sales staff in-depth client information to better deliver a sales pitch and improve performance.

Lightweight infrastructure

In terms of hardware, there’s a lot less of it in offices because of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) -- a market expected to grow by 36.8% in 2017. IaaS is a cloud service whereby a provider delivers computing resources (e.g., processing power, RAM, and storage space) over the internet. With little need to install and manage their own hardware, SMBs are less cluttered and more focused on driving profits.

Cybersecurity systems

Considering that the last few years saw a huge increase in cyber-related security incidents, SMBs are getting more serious about protecting their networks. In 2016, a PwC survey found that 52% of organizations are using intrusion detection tools, and that 47% have security information and event management systems. This year, cybersecurity adoption is ramping up even more.

Apart from firewalls and antivirus software, Office 365 adopters enable access management features to reduce the impact of insider threats, and multi-factor authentication to prevent hackers from getting in even if they know a user’s password.

Given the recent trend of ransomware attacks, firms have become more diligent with updating their software and backing up their data. All in all, security is now a daily consideration for an SMB’s operations, and those that last are taking a multi-layered approach to security.

Intelligent machines

Another recent development is that artificial intelligence, or more specifically machine learning, is reinventing the way companies do business. Simply put, machine learning is based on a set of code that automatically learns from huge volumes of data, presenting many opportunities to optimize company data.

Most forward-thinking agencies already use software with some machine learning elements. Those who use Dynamics 365, for instance, have intelligent product recommendation features whereby machine learning algorithms study customer buying patterns and automatically recommend products related to previous purchases. So if a customer purchased a mobile phone in the past, Dynamics 365 immediately recommends add-on products like screen protectors or headphones.

Another way businesses are taking advantage of this technology is through bots. In Skype, employees can simply ask intelligent machines to display travel options, automate routine tasks, or find licensed photos.

Hopefully after all this, you have an idea of what an SMB is supposed to look like in terms of technology. And if you don’t have any of the above mentioned solutions, then it’s time to partner with a reputable managed services provider.

Here at WhiteOwl, we provide the solutions that keep your operations current and prepare you for the future. Call us today to transform your business.

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