When it comes to business, size matters. Larger businesses with big revenue figures and big budgets operate at a different level than small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), especially when it comes to IT infrastructure. The big corporations maintain massive data centers to support their businesses while SMBs have to do with less – less hardware, less software, less staff, and less resources. As a result, SMBs are continually reprioritizing their IT resources and juggling multiple small business technology challenges to make their businesses more successful.
According to the research firm Techaisle, the technology spending for U.S. SMBs is flat, and even declined slightly compared to 2015. While midmarket spending on technology is up 6 percent, tech spending for SMBs is predicted to decline by 2 percent in 2016, remaining flat at around $134 billion overall.
The research also shows that 52 percent of small businesses understand that while technology helps drive the direction of their business, very small business (those with fewer than 50 employees) have actually lowered their IT budgets, specifically with less spending on end-point devices and IT services. More businesses are shifting to the cloud, managed services, analytics, and IoT, while spending on mobile computing could drop by as much as 10 percent.
These spending trends provide an indication of some of the areas where SMBs face their greatest technology challenges, and where they need to develop new strategies to meet their computing needs:
1. Lack of budgetAllocating money for growth is always an SMB challenge. Day-to-day operations seem to consume most of the company’s revenue, and money allocated for growth usually goes to sales and marketing, not IT. However, building out the IT infrastructure needed to support growth is still essential.
To reduce their IT budgets while leaving room for expansion, more SMBs are using cloud services rather than investing in their own data center. The cloud is an ideal resource for SMBs since it offers a “pay as you go” model for expansion; you can add computing power, data storage, and other resources as needed, usually deploying within days at a fraction of the time and cost to integration new dedicated systems.
2. Finding qualified IT staff
Staffing is an ongoing challenge. Talented system integrators and IT professionals are very much in demand, and that means they are looking for top dollar from growth companies. This makes it tough for SMBs to compete for the best IT talent.
Well, if you can’t hire the necessary talent, rent it. An increasing number of managed service providers are supporting SMBs with the IT expertise they need. The great thing about managed service companies is they have more expertise on staff (no one IT manager can be good at everything) and help is available 24/7. And managed services providers offer comprehensive IT support for a fraction of the cost of maintaining an on-site IT staff.
3. Supporting mobile devices
A ubiquitous challenge plaguing all organizations, big and small, is the boom in mobile computing. Everyone is armed with a smartphone these days, which means they want to access their email and files from the office. Maintaining secure mobile data access can be a real challenge without the right expertise.
Implementing mobile device management (MDM) is one of the best ways to control mobile computing users and keep data secure. And you don’t have to run MDM software in-house. Managed service providers can include MDM and mobile security strategies as part of their contract.
4. Managing data growth
With new regulations and more digitized business processes, SMBs have to maintain more records for longer periods. Databases are getting bigger and data archives continue to grow.
Rather than investing in more data storage hardware, which tends to be expensive and is often under-utilized, SMBs are making data archiving part of their cloud strategy. Not only are they storing vital files and archived data in secure cloud data repositories, disaster recovery managed by third-parties has become a common cloud-based service.
5. Extracting intelligence from data analytics
With the growth in data, SMBs are looking for new ways to mine the data for business insight. In addition to CRM and ERP projects, the same big data analytics techniques available to big business also are available to SMBs, but SMBs have to look for outside expertise here as well.
Managed service companies can help SMBs get more from their data. They can assist with database expansion, ERP solutions to integrate business systems, and more. Many system integrators are becoming expert at big data analytics, helping customers mine disparate data repositories for insight about customers, pricing, inventory management, and more.
6. Scaling the infrastructure
All SMBs have to determine how to best manage growth, including expansion of their IT infrastructure. Where should the company invest in new technology or new enterprise resources, and what are the metrics for return on investment?
SMBs need to focus on their primary business, so understanding all the options available to manage infrastructure expansion is best left to other experts. Technology consultants who keep track of the latest technology and enterprise solutions can provide expert guidance on where to invest in expansion to get maximum ROI. Finding the right infrastructure partner can save thousands of dollars and yield even greater returns from careful strategic growth planning.
These are just six of the technology challenges that SMBs face. However, today’s SMBs also have an advantage; they don’t have to justify the cost of a dedicated data center but can bring in cloud and consulting services as needed to meet their needs. Bringing in outside resources with the right solutions at the right time keeps operations nimble and makes it easier to adapt to changing business requirements.