As you plan ahead for the new year (and beyond), it’s important to keep an eye on emerging advances in tech. Staying on the cutting edge of innovation will help you boost productivity, attract new customers (while keeping more of your old ones), and fend off would-be hackers. These are the the five things every small business owner should do in 2016.
Get Serious About Cybersecurity
Most small businesses are not equipped to handle data breaches, often because small business owners underestimate how vulnerable they really are to cybersecurity threats. As bigger companies have increased their cybersecurity, hackers have begun to target smaller businesses more. Once attacked, more than half of small businesses shut down within six months. Earning back customer trust is tricky and fixing the damage just costs too much for most companies.
If you’re still using your own servers or managing your own security, it’s time to delegate those tasks to the professionals. The teams that run these services eat, sleep, and breathe cybersecurity, so they’re equipped with more sophisticated systems and the latest software. Plus, subscribing to these services almost always costs less than doing it yourself. It’s a win-win.
Refresh Your Hardware
Deciding the when and what surrounding a hardware update can be daunting. But if you’re considering a refresh, you’re probably already overdue. Small business owners have a tendency to look at hardware updates as a luxury, but nothing could be further from the truth. As Scott Brown, president of Ryan Creek Technology, pointed out in a recent LinkedIn post, “...[T]his approach is one that embraces emergency as a call to action, and guarantees unpredictable IT costs.” Keeping your hardware cutting edge will increase productivity and help you stay within budget.
And remember: You don’t have to update everything all at once. Upgrade only the most important hardware first and gradually replace the rest on a schedule that works for you. More importantly, be purposeful about investing in technology designed and built specifically for small businesses.
Make Friends With Big Data
Big data refers to the kind of datasets that are too large or complex for your average data and IT software to handle. You’ve definitely heard about it, and perhaps you’ve dismissed it as something important to just the enterprise. But when scaled down appropriately, big data can do wonders for small businesses by revealing unexpected correlations and delivering detailed information about customers. It might seem intimidating to leap into this kind of technology, but in a few years, you’ll be glad you did. Big data will put the power back in the hands of small business owners.
Embrace the Cloud
If you haven’t already, it’s time to move to cloud-based services. Pairing them with lightweight, travel-friendly devices is one of the best moves you can make. Not only do cloud-based services help you save hard drive space and give you peace of mind via automatic backups, they also make collaboration easy and instantaneous. Whether it’s just you, or you and a small team, cloud-based services are the way to go. And by using a service rather than purchasing a piece of software, you have the latest version available — no installs required.
Look to the Future
Knowing what’s coming down the pike is essential for planning your business’s future. When looking beyond 2016, you should be keeping an eye on two different, though complementary technologies.
The Internet of Things might seem irrelevant or strange now, but sending and receiving a constant stream of information to and from everyday objects and devices will be hugely beneficial to small businesses. But if you want to get the most out of the Internet of Things, adopt early. It’ll be the businesses who jump on board first who will see the most robust growth from the kinds of insights this extreme connectivity will offer.
Another impending technology worth getting to know now is 5G networks. Based on the name, you might not think it’s anything to sneeze at, but you’d be wrong. Unlike its predecessors, 5G is built for business; it’s predicted to be exponentially faster than 4G and much, much more reliable. So say goodbye to awkward video calls with frozen frames and audio that cuts in and out.
There has never been a better time to be a small business owner. You have access to the kinds of tools and services that businesses a decade ago couldn’t even imagine. But you also face new challenges: hackers, global competition, and the breakneck speed of technological innovation. Thankfully, it only takes a little foresight and planning to keep your business secure and at the forefront of your industry.