by Granville Triumph
The new year is always a time for reflection and fresh starts, and so it is for business owners. As we noted in a recent post, research from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce indicates most small-to-midsized businesses have resolved to continue investing in technology solutions that can help them become more productive and resilient.
As SMBs start their planning and budgeting cycles for 2023, here are four areas of tech investment we believe warrant strong consideration:
Cloud-based applications and services, particularly collaboration platforms and line-of-business apps, offer SMBs the most bang for their buck. The consulting firm Analysys Mason expects global SMB spending on Software-as-a-Service tools to see a CAGR of 17 percent through 2026, reaching a value of $291 billion, which will represent 63 percent of total SaaS spending.
There’s a good reason for this — SaaS tools help small businesses address immediate problems in a cost-effective way. The subscription model eliminates crippling licensing arrangements that SMBs might otherwise have to pay in order to access advanced software for finance and accounting, customer relationship management, human relations, data analytics and supply chain management. Additionally, the SaaS model will enable growing numbers of SMBs to experiment with artificial intelligence and machine learning applications.
There’s a tendency to think of AI as futuristic technology meant only for huge enterprise organizations with teams of data scientists and rooms full of supercomputers. In reality, it is already the main driver of many technologies being used in workplaces around the world. Small businesses are automating a variety of business processes using AI-powered applications and tools that require minimal expertise. Many of these can be outsourced from AI-as-a-Service providers.
There are growing numbers of use cases. For instance, AI-powered bots can learn to answer many basic customer service questions, track and automatically adjust product inventory levels, evaluate résumés and vet job candidates, create invoices, process payments, and forecast cash flows.
It’s no secret that cyberattacks are growing in frequency and sophistication, and small businesses are frequently targeted. That’s partly because the accelerated adoption of cloud services and remote and hybrid work models created a much broader attack surface. More than three-quarters of SMBs were impacted by at least one attack in the past year, according to a Vanson Bourne study.
AI also plays an important role in improving SMB cybersecurity by enhancing tools for threat detection, access management and data loss prevention. Another emerging trend in SMB security is the use of Secure Services Edge platforms that help secure access to the web, cloud services and private applications. SSE solutions combine a cloud access security broker (CASB) and a secure web gateway (SWG) with zero-trust network access (ZTNA) and Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS). They can be deployed on premises or delivered as a cloud-based service.
5G can deliver mobile browsing and download speeds up to 20 times faster than 4G networks, which will create practical benefits for SMBs by giving remote and mobile workers faster, more reliable connections to network and cloud resources and enhancing online file-sharing and collaboration. The enhanced speed and capacity will also support better customer experiences by making customer support, credit applications, order processing, mobile transactions and billing inquiries faster and more convenient.
5G networks can also improve business continuity by creating a fast, reliable failover option that minimizes downtime. In the event of an Internet outage, traffic can be automatically redirected to the high-speed 5G network without the need for any manual intervention.