Keeping up with technology can be a challenge for many small businesses, especially those that don’t have the IT budgets of their larger competitors.In the coming year, however, there are several technologies that will be accessible to small businesses that have the potential to change their company dynamics. Over the next several months, be sure to watch out for these technologies.
Internet of Things Security
As businesses add connected devices such as thermostats, security cameras, and lighting systems to their offices, it’s becoming more likely that these devices can be hacked. According to a recent survey, nearly two-thirds of businesses believe that they are vulnerable to a cyber attack through these types of devices, but only 56% said that their company is doing something to prevent these types of attacks. Expect to see an increasing number of products dedicated to preventing these types of cyber security breaches.
Many small businesses are familiar with the expense and hassles of keeping their own server bank on their physical site. With cloud computing, however, these costs will go away. That has the potential to give small businesses the ability to have their employees work remotely. Since cloud computing decentralizes the servers most businesses rely on, employees will be able to access their files over the web. That lets them share information with customers and employees practically anywhere in the world.
They’ll also be able to outsource IT costs and reduce their office footprint as their large server banks become a thing of the past. Switching to cloud computing will be at the top of the IT priority list for many small businesses.
The Rise of Chatbots
Chatbots, Artificial intelligence software that has the capability of handling simple customer interactions such as answering basic questions or processing orders, have begun to be rolled out by larger companies. In 2017, however, these programs will become increasingly popular among small businesses. These programs will enable small businesses to have some of the same customer outreach capabilities as their larger competitors. Chatbots are able to interact with multiple customers at the same time and handle many of the rote functions previously performed by customer service staff. This enables a small company’s customer service department to greatly increase the volume clients it can service.
Small businesses have always felt as if they were playing catch-up when it comes to accepting customer’s credit cards. For years many of them simply couldn’t afford the equipment to process these cards. With mobile payments, however, practically any smart device can become a credit card terminal. Information from the cards can be sent and received by the processing bank almost instantly, and in many cases a business can see the funds from a transaction in their account within a single business day.
Mobile payment systems are priced cheaply enough that they are accessible to just about anyone. Not only are small businesses saving thousands on the credit card equipment fees, but the technology has given way to the rise of micro businesses. These businesses specialize in one or two products and may only last for a few weeks. They tend to sell products at craft shows or other commercial events. They are giving many people a way to test out new business ideas and models, as well as find the right audience for a particular product or skill. Combining mobile payments with cloud computing has allowed many businesses to eliminate a significant portion of their start-up costs, allowing businesses owners to try radically different concepts and ideas.
One of the greatest advantages that big businesses hold over small ones is the ability to draw on the experiences of dozens or even hundreds more employees. Collaboration tools aim to change this by making the advantages pf a large and diverse workforce available to small businesses. Rather than hiring on a large staff, these tools will make it possible for small businesses to take on highly skilled workers for temporary projects, or even use their skills for a small portion of a project. The small business doesn’t have to worry about providing a full-time salary, they only pay for the time they use.