Identifying IT needs: Top tools and trends for small businesses

There are a few key technological tools small businesses can adopt to help better arm their staff members and level the playing field with larger companies.

When it comes to recognizing and providing for operational and employee IT needs, small businesses have their work cut out for them. Not only do these organizations have smaller technology budgets and fewer internal IT resources compared with their enterprise counterparts, they must also ensure that their workers have the tools they need to complete critical processes.

Thankfully, there are a few key technological tools small businesses can adopt to help better arm their staff members and level the playing field with larger companies. These strategic trends represent true investments for smaller organizations, but when implemented effectively, can make all the difference in the marketplace.

Today's small business environment

"Small business employees account for more than 50 percent of the overall working population."

Before we get into the top tools and innovations small businesses should have in place, it's important to better understand the environment that makes these systems so critical. Small businesses operate within a unique sector and face specialized obstacles that must be addressed.

Over a six-year study, Forbes gathered numerous insights about the distinctive small business marketplace, and uncovered a number of key insights:

  • Small business employees account for more than 50 percent of the overall working population.
  • There are nearly 28 million U.S.-based small businesses, and an additional 22 million organizations are made up of self-employed individuals without other staff members.
  • More than 500,000 new businesses launch every month. At the same time, however, more companies shut down each month than start up. 
  • Seventy percent of new small companies remain in business for at least 2 years. Fifty percent remain open at least 5 years, and 25 percent make it past the 15-year mark.

From these numbers, it's easy to see the challenges small businesses face. With smaller pools of available capital and other resources, it can be considerably difficult to survive in the small business marketplace.

Arming small businesses: Key IT tools and technological trends

However, a few key technologies and trending strategies seek to change all of that. But which popular approaches can best position small businesses for success?

Reducing or removing on-premises systems: Small Business Computing pointed out that over the last decade or so, the office environment has considerably changed. As opposed to installing, maintaining and updating technological systems themselves, businesses of all sizes have turned to service providers and hosting solutions to reduce their on-premises burden. This can be particularly valuable for smaller organizations, many of which have limited IT teams or no internal IT personnel at all. By partnering with a solution provider to lessen the amount of technology kept and maintained on the company's premises, small businesses can free up time for staff members and still have the necessary tools in place to support employee activities.

The cloud can help reduce on-premise complexity and support BYOD and mobility. The cloud can help reduce on-premises complexity and support BYOD and mobility.

Turning to the cloud: Technical analyst Greg Schulz told Small Business Computing that for some organizations, the biggest benefits result from getting rid of "as much on-premises technology as possible and rely on the cloud instead."

"Others will need to figure out which IT functions they can move to the cloud to reduce complexity and cost – and do so as a complement to their on-premises equipment and software," Schulz noted.

In this way, executives need to make informed decisions about their on-premises infrastructure in order to create the most optimal configuration across the company's own site and any service provider data centers or other cloud environments.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise noted that the cloud holds real potential for the small business market.

"The ease and low cost of cloud services mean you don't need the budgets or resources of large companies to fund product development," Hewlett-Packard Enterprise stated. "Using the cloud, you can take advantage of third-party services for everything – from marketing to product engineering to IT support to accounting."

Enabling BYOD and mobility: Another critical trend to take note of is the BYOD and enterprise mobility movement, which can be particularly beneficial for small businesses. A proper BYOD plan – coupled with valuable mobile applications and robust endpoint security – can not only save an organization money, but can help keep a firm on the cutting edge.

According to HP, small businesses stand to save as much as $67 billion annually by leveraging mobile devices and applications in daily operations. What's more, SMBs that do adopt mobile strategies experience 11 points higher revenue growth than those that don't.

Partnering with a robust solution provider: As noted, it can be especially advantageous for small businesses to leverage the services of an outside service provider. In this way, the organization can make the most of its available resources while filling in the necessary gaps. However, when selecting a vendor, it's critical that small business decision-makers do their homework and partner with a service provider that has all the solutions they need.

This is where a partnership with iT1 Source becomes so valuable. iT1 Source can offer a range of technological solutions – from data storage and virtualization to unified communications and network connectivity. Best of all, we've partnered with the best in the industry to ensure that your business has the best solutions possible. To find out more, contact one of our expert consultants today.