Here are some things that SMBs should place on their IT radar while planning for 2020:
#1: Subscription-based Office Services
Small businesses are known for their ability to react to market changes with agility. However, IT planning and purchasing hasn’t always been their strong suit. The main reason? Major IT purchases can be expensive and usually involve a long-term commitment. One trend we’ve seen gaining steady ground in 2019 that is sure to also have a huge impact in 2020 is subscription-based office services.
Cloud solutions that at one time only made financial sense for large companies or enterprises are now affordable and very much within reach for SMBs. Currently, though, many SMBs are tied to perpetual licenses for multiple office services, with some licensing being very expensive and causing organizations to keep legacy versions of programs. This can lead to lackluster performance and security vulnerabilities. By moving to cloud solutions, you can set up whatever type of application you're looking for with a couple of clicks and an affordable monthly payment. Whether Microsoft Office 365, QuickBooks for accounting, Salesforce or Dynamics for CRM, it’s only one click away.
Other benefits of cloud-based subscription services include savings on infrastructure costs, maximized uptime and centralized management of applications. Specifically, Office 365 combines the advantages of cloud technology with the traditional foundation of on-premise software offerings, allowing Office applications to be available to numerous computers or devices.
Bottom line, subscriptions are a more affordable and hassle-free option compared to trying to keep up with the latest software versions and paying perpetual licensing fees. And, with the flexibility to scale up or down as businesses adjust to changing economic climates, it’s a solid solution. One added benefit is being able to collaborate with teams and share files via Microsoft OneDrive—a feature many SMBs don’t typically have in their existing solution sets. The fact that Microsoft’s entire business model is evolving toward subscription-based services over perpetual licensing should tell us something.
#2: The Move from CapEx to OpEx Hardware Investments
Another big shift we’re seeing heading into 2020 is an increasing number of SMBs transitioning from capital expenditures (CapEx) to operational expenditures (OpEx). Traditionally, companies have relied on having on-premise structures for data centers, something that requires a huge CapEx investment to purchase equipment and pay for perpetual software licensing fees as well as employees to run and maintain the system. This provided them peace of mind that their data was secure and that they could monitor it all. But at what expense? Today’s SMBs require the same security and oversight, but also need more cost-effective and affordable solutions. Where do they find that combination? Once again—the cloud.
Having on-site servers and IT equipment can be costly, to say the least, which is why companies are looking more at OpEx expenditures such as cloud hosting services. Cloud computing has changed the way SMBs function, and now cloud hosting companies can put SMBs on a level playing field with some of their biggest competitors. This is not only big, it’s game-changing. The cloud offers a solution that eliminates costly purchases of physical processors and databases.
And, because the actual physical IT infrastructure exists off-site, storage is also no longer a concern. Further, your requirements to service those units are also eliminated, so your IT team can focus on other issues at hand. If and when there is a problem, the cloud computing host will react to it within seconds of it happening, maximizing uptime.
By switching from a large upfront IT spend to a pay-as-you-go cloud hosting model, companies can reduce CapEx expenses while reaping other rewards. What’s more, the transition is easy. The cloud hosting companies will do the heavy lifting.
#3: Security Consciousness
Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen companies becoming more and more security conscious—and it is well-founded.
We’ll see a continuing trend in 2020 around improved security that will also include such things as training employees to recognize scams like phishing and to be more conscious of how they are interacting through email and collaborative materials outside their network. This is especially important as many companies move toward a more remote workforce where workers don't have the ability to turn to the person next to them to ask, "Did you see this? Is this really legit?”
Furthermore, as companies move activities to the cloud, they’re realizing they now have their data off-site and are wondering how to keep it from being exposed. To better secure their networks, we’ll continue to see a big push toward solutions like Microsoft 365, which is a bundle of services including the aforementioned Office 365 plus several other things like Windows 10 Enterprise. The solution provides SMBs with the ability to use mobile device management within the Microsoft ecosystem. They can make it so employee laptops have an agent that runs on them that limits access with levels of protocol around who can access what data. You can think of it as a premium version of Office 365 with added security features. Mobile workforces that don't necessarily always have a VPN can access and join their work domain without causing additional security concerns for companies.
Overall, it’s time to think outside the box to lower costs, improve performance and mitigate risk. Subscription-based services and cloud-based solutions offer SMBs powerful tools that historically were cost-prohibitive, but are now within their reach. Just think of the flexibility, collaborative abilities and increase in capabilities they can bring to your business. Make 2020 the year that your SMB starts reaping the benefits of these enterprise-level solutions now available at small-business pricing.
Tiffany Bloomer is the President of Aventis Systems, Inc., a leading provider of information technology hardware, software and services. Learn more by visiting