Three SMB Trends in 2012 and How to Stay Ahead of Them

Paul Mah
Slide Show

The Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2012

Use this list in your strategic planning for 2012.

As we enter into week two of 2012, Andy Monshaw, general manager of IBM Midmarket Business, was kind enough to send along a list of upcoming tech predictions. Though the pointers were more generally focused towards mid-sized businesses, I've decided to highlight a few of those that are also pertinent to small businesses and even SOHOs. I've also chipped in with some of my own recommendations on how they could be leveraged for business.


Cloud Services


According to Compass Intelligence, small businesses in the U.S. are predicted to spend up to $280 billion on information and communications technology by 2012. IBM thinks a large chunk of this expenditure will go towards cloud technology. Indeed, Monshaw wrote that this shift to the cloud is helping IBM's midmarket clients get access to enterprise-class infrastructure, achieve better efficiency in operation and capital cost savings, among others.


While some aspects of cloud computing have obviously been overhyped, what is equally apparent is how cloud services have matured significantly since. There are many online services today that provide compelling value that can be readily harnessed in businesses. Indeed, where smaller-sized businesses had to shell out for expensive server hardware and software licenses in the past - or make do with inferior alternatives - SMBs and SOHOs are now able enjoy a variety of cloud-hosted tools at a small fraction of the price.


Use of Analytics


With consumers creating 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day, Monshaw says it is seeing an increased focus in SMBs making use of analytics solutions to improve decision-making and operational efficiency. Alluding to how social media can be used to paint a more accurate picture of one's customer base, Monshaw says: "SMBs are also recognizing the need to gain better insights from social media to drive their business and build a more loyal customer base."


I am in hearty support of SMBs using analytics, though social media is a huge topic that is best addressed in a separate blog. While the former has traditionally resided within the domains of large enterprises, there is no doubt in my mind that SMBs can use it to gain insights to increase their bottom line. This could entail something as simple as keeping an accurate tab on sales volume at the product level or tracking visitors' statistics of the company websites. Based on the popularity of certain products and incoming search keywords for example, SMBs could tweak their marketing campaign or tweak their product portfolio to maximize sales volume.


Rise of Mobility


Mobile commerce is expected to reach $31 billion by 2016 and SMB firms will be spending more on mobile-centric applications, says Monshaw. As expected, the number of mobile exploit releases is expected to increase in tandem with the increased use of mobile devices. In order to address the increasing prospect of threats from the mobile front, Monshaw says organizations need to cover these growing gaps or risk being seriously exposed in 2012.


I think it is somewhat challenging for very small businesses to deploy security software to protect mobile devices at this stage. Given the irresistible popularity of BYOD (bring your own device), it may make more sense for small businesses and SOHOs to start by implementing proper policies that serve to reduce security threats originating from mobile devices. This may range from the use of device encryption, setting device passwords, and the mandatory installation of remote-wipe software for smartphones used to access company resources.

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Jan 12, 2012 1:50 AM Spencer Parkinson Spencer Parkinson  says:

Paul, your comments about SMBs starting out simple with developing basic mobile policies are right on. As a Symantec employee, I'll throw out a couple of other best practices any SMB can do right now to improve their mobile security posture:

- Develop policies around acceptable use, especially when it comes to apps. For example, guidance on what kind of apps employees are allowed to download on their business-connected personal devices and especially where users can download apps from (i.e. only from official or proven legitimate app markets).

- Take and maintain an inventory of the mobile devices connecting to company networks. Complete visibility into the various mobile devices might not be possible for every SMB at this time, but at least knowing which devices are connecting to what and who they belong to is a good start.

- Have a process in place for if a device is lost or stolen. This goes back to your comment about being able to remotely lock or wipe a device. In the case of a loss or theft, employees and management should all know what to do next. Processes to deactivate the device and protect its information from intrusion should all be in place. Products are also available for the automation of such processes, allowing companies to breathe easier after such incidents.

- Instead of solely focusing on the mobile devices themselves, SMBs should take a step back and look at where the organization's information is being stored and should then protect those areas accordingly. Requirements around anti-malware, data loss prevention and authentication apply for data wherever it resides, mobile or otherwise.

Once an SMB has started doing these things, they may find that an MDM solution can help implement and enforce them.

Spencer Parkinson


Jan 12, 2012 3:45 AM AssetGlobe AssetGlobe  says:

For SMBs, they can get many of the cloud services they need for free (e.g. Gmail, Google Apps, Dropbox, Jammer, Skype...) or paying really low prices.

And the best part is that the quality of these services are way better than what these firms used before....


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