2014 technology trends for small business

From more Wi-Fi and tablets to greater bandwidth and speed

Bank of America recently polled approximately 1,300 small businesses regarding their expectations for 2014. The results found that today’s small businesses are optimistic about the new year and expect to hire more employees to keep pace with expected increases in sales. In the face of doubts and concerns regarding the Affordable Care Act, this is great news for our economy and the nation as a whole.

In my role as regional vice president of Comcast Business, I’ve spoken with hundreds of small business customers, and these are the big trends that keep coming up in our conversations as topics that will help small businesses grow in 2014:

Wi-Fi: Just the other week, I opted to work from my car dealership waiting room instead of bothering with a loaner car simply because I knew I would get Wi-Fi there. I’m not alone. As consumers become increasingly dependent on the Internet – no matter where they are – offering this type of convenience to patrons makes good business sense. And as consumers attempt to reduce their wireless data usage while also getting a faster connection, the benefits of Wi-Fi compound, leaving it logical to assume that small business Wi-Fi usage will go through the roof next year.

Tablet takeover: HP recently issued an interesting infographic that cites an IDC study indicating that 37 percent of the global workforce (1.7 billion people) will be using mobile technology by 2015. The infographic also references a Forrester survey saying that nearly 1 billion tablets will be used by employees worldwide by 2017.

Widespread tablet adoption in small businesses, however, can pose significant IT issues for employers, who are faced with either managing their employees’ personal devices being brought onto their networks or being forced to supply company-issued tablets as an alternative. Smart business owners will look to compromise in 2014 to take advantage of the growing number of cost-effective tablet options while also enabling their IT teams to support employee devices too.

Cloud: In a recent LinkedIn poll of 1,700 small businesses, 80 percent said they are using cloud-based applications, with 47 percent of them using as many as they can. Cloud is now a given, but specific subsets of SaaS (software-as-a-service) applications will make substantial strides next year. With social media being a real driver of sales, cloud apps are an inexpensive and convenient way of helping small businesses that aren’t necessarily tech savvy get up to speed on this rapidly growing social media community.

TV at work: People today want access to a TV, even when they’re at work. When something groundbreaking is happening, there’s nothing quite like live TV coverage. In 2014, more employees and consumers will also be able to watch college bowl games, the Olympics, the NCAA tournament and the World Cup (can you tell I’m a sports fan?) in more lobbies and waiting rooms or while they’re on the go. IDC data shows a steady increase in TV service adoption rates within small and medium-sized businesses.

Similar to what’s happening with Wi-Fi, business owners are beginning to understand that offering video at work keeps people informed, happy and coming back, which is good for both patrons AND employees.

Bandwidth and speed: Since there are more tablets being produced, more people using Wi-Fi, more cloud apps being downloaded and more video clips being watched, SMBs need to have enough capacity and speed to not only handle all of their traffic today, but also have the scalability in place to know that they’ll also be able to handle their needs tomorrow.

Companies will get smarter in 2014 by proactively adding extra bandwidth and speeds to anticipate significant spikes in traffic.

Security: Too many small businesses roll the dice when it comes to their data backup plan. As more natural disasters and those “not-so-natural” disasters occur each year – like computer theft or a double latte landing on your keyboard – businesses need to pay more attention to their business contingency plans. Cloud computing has simplified this process a bit – businesses are able to move their data backup to the cloud, which makes things more cost-effective and provides companies with the security they need.

Look for more and more businesses to move their backup to the cloud – because if they don’t, the results could be catastrophic.

If Bank of America’s 2014 predictions hold true and small businesses are poised for growth next year, the ripple effect we will see from a technology standpoint within small businesses will likely be equally – if not more – compelling.

Steve Walsh is Greater Boston regional vice president of Comcast Business.

Categories: Business Advice