The Rise of Mobile, Cloud-Based Small Business

Enterprise-level technology is finally reaching the small business. As a result, IDC predicts that in 2014, small business spending on technology will grow faster than overall world economic growth, again. Virtualization, for example, will grow in importance in all but the smallest businesses, with server and storage virtualization becoming critical. This will drive continued adoption of cloud computing by small businesses, which will be used in one-third of small businesses in the United States in 2014. Penetration will actually grow to over half of small firms with more than 10 employees.

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Small businesses will increasingly use cloud resources as part of a hybrid environment, with both on-premise and publically hosted solutions used, and mobility emerging to change the way companies conduct business. IDC predicts that 2014 will be a breakthrough year for mobile empowerment in small businesses. Spending for mobile resources will grow more than 10% worldwide, twice the level of IT spending in general.

But more important is the integration of mobility into small business IT processes. This will extend beyond just empowering mobile workers to playing a major role in almost every aspect of SMB business, including optimizing Web sites and online commerce for mobile users and more efficient access to company data.

Dependence on mobile technology is already higher in small businesses than in large enterprises. BYOD is the critical driver to this steep adoption in which mobile workers use personal technology for business purposes. From 2012 to 2013, for example, the use of BYOD smartphones in small businesses rose from 53% to 88%; BYOD tablet use during that same period rose from 30% to 56%.

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In recent surveys, IDC found that 43% of small businesses have all of their employees using their BYOD smartphones for business purposes, and almost 40% of small businesses have more than half of workers using their tablets for business purposes.

BYOD provides a great opportunity for small businesses to grow technology use at minimal cost. Yet this major opportunity for productivity gain raises critical security issues.

BYOD is a double edged sword, as this influx of personal devices raises concerns about security and how to protection critical proprietary company information. The trust in mobile workers and technology is staggering. While a growing number of small businesses allow users complete access to business resources with employee-owned devices, only 26% have policies stating that personal computers must meet company security standards, only 28% have smartphone policies and only 23% have tablet policies.

Ironically, while small businesses do not fully recognize the security challenges with personal mobile technology, they claim that security concerns are the key inhibitors to adopting cloud computing. This means that for small businesses to truly harness the advantages of mobility and cloud computing, they must acknowledge a larger role for a formal set of security solutions. Most important, they must treat security not as a cost to be minimized, but as an investment to be optimized.