How SMBs should approach the cloud and mobility
Mobility's shift towards the enterprise is accelerating, especially in light of recent hardware announcements from the world's major device makers.
Apple, for example, unveiled the iPad Pro last month, a bigger version of the iPad complemented by a stylus and a keyboard, all in the name of improved productivity for professionals on the go. Google joined the high-performance tablet fray with the Pixel C, its first Android tablet that comes with a detachable keyboard for working professionals. More recently, Blackberry announced its first Android-based device.
These developments were preceded by Microsoft's Surface products, 2-in-1 devices running the full Windows operating system.
The proliferation of smartphones – forecast by IDC to reach 1.4 billion unit shipments in 2015 alone – also points to the increasing "mobilization" of the global workforce.
Advancements in smartphone technology have put business systems and applications on mobile phones, transforming them into smarter, more sophisticated business tools. Today, any business without an app strategy will find themselves losing out to more agile competitors.
For SMBs with limited resources, this accelerating shift towards mobility has made the competitive business landscape a more level playing field.The cloud also promises advantages for SMBs due to the advantages of faster deployment and lower cost of ownership.
The cloud enables SMBs to improve operational processes and offer smarter, more agile solutions to their customers without incurring unnecessary investment on additional hardware and IT resources. In short, SMBs are realising that cloud allows them to operate smarter, not harder – and grow faster.
Mobility and the cloud can empower SMBs and help them grow. However, implementing a mobile and cloud strategy can be a daunting task, especially for SMBs without a dedicated IT manager.
The following three questions are proposed as a general starting point to help evaluate the mobility and cloud-based tools available.
1. What’s my app strategy?
According to a global Accenture study, 87% of executives see the necessity of mobile apps in order to fully realize the benefits of the digital economy. SMBs, too, should consider implementing an app strategy, both internally and externally.
Embracing smartphone and tablet apps for work can be a remarkable boost for productivity, and this is truer as mobile devices become more powerful.
Externally, apps that provide a good experience can dramatically boost a brand’s market perception, and help SMBs reach new demographics that were previously impossible.
Apps are an integral part of mobility, and will certainly become more powerful and provide richer user experiences as the devices powering them mature.
2. Which cloud service works for me?
Cloud-based unified tools and systems helps SMBs better integrate their resources and business processes, so they can communicate and collaborate better and more efficiently ¬– regardless of the platform or hardware of their choice.
Today, there are managed cloud services for many essential business functions, from networking to data storage to customer relationship management. The cloud is so powerful that it can even host applications and desktops.
When considering these options, SMBs have to further decide whether public, private, or hybrid cloud deployments work best for them.
3. How can my employees collaborate seamlessly?
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies are common in SMBsthanks chiefly to its cost-effectiveness.
In a recent Parallels survey of 1,000 SMB stakeholders in the US, the full results of which will be released soon, 47 percent of respondents say they have a BYOD policy in place, with 15 percent saying they cover both laptops and mobile devices, and 43 percent saying they allow mobile device access to email and other corporate systems.
This means that an SMB office could see not just Windows and Mac PCs, but also iPhones, iPads, and Android smartphones and tablets.
To bridge these disparate platforms, cloud collaboration services such as Dropbox, Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 are mainstay tools many SMBs rely on. No matter what devices your employeesuse, productivity software and business-critical data are all easily deployed and synced through the cloud.
In another case, businesses frequently see the need for additional devices and platforms as they expand. For example, there could be a need for specialized video editing software available only on the Mac.
To meet these needs without incurring more hardware costs,SMBs can also consider maximizing their current hardware resources through methods such as virtualization or remote access.
For instance, desktopvirtualization software can turn an employee’s Mac into both a Windows and OS X machine, easily running apps on both platforms without having to reboot. One such product is Parallels Desktop for Mac Business Edition.
Perhaps best of all,SMB employees will end up happier with the ability to choose their favourite devices on which to work.
Towards the future
These three questions are not exhaustive, and should not be the only ones that SMBs ask themselves. However, they are among some of the most crucial questions to ponder over and can serve as appropriate launch pads to delve deeper into deployment options.