small business technology

By Rieva Lesonsky

Are you taking advantage of all the technology tools at your disposal to help grow your business? From cloud services and mobile technology to social media and digital marketing, savvy small business owners rely on a wide variety of tech tools to power their growth.

That’s the finding of the Summer 2013 CBeyond Business Leader Snapshot, which reveals that nearly six in 10 (59 percent) small and midsized businesses plan to boost their technology budgets this year. In contrast, just 31 percent will keep tech budgets stagnant and a mere 11 percent will cut them.

So what technology matters most to small business owners? Well, it’s changing. In the past, applications (defined as security, productivity and collaboration software) where what small business owners deemed most essential to success. This year, for the first time, mobile services (cited by 93 percent) were more important than applications (cited by 83 percent). Mobile services were second only to high-speed, always-on internet access, which 95 percent of companies ranked as essential.

One-third (34 percent) of respondents claim their businesses couldn’t survive without mobile services, and 42 percent say operating their businesses without mobile services would be a major challenge. Clearly, being able to work from anywhere, anytime has become essential to doing business today. Some 89 percent of respondents believe it’s important to be able to work remotely on a regular basis, while 79 percent say it’s important to be able to work remotely on vacation.

What else matters to small businesses? Also making the list of crucial technology are cloud services (70 percent) and data security (66 percent). But speaking of security, small business owners still aren’t totally sure their systems and data are safe. The growing trend of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is presenting challenges.

Even though 22 percent of respondents have created a BYOD policy for how employees use personal devices to access company data, some 32 percent still aren’t  sure or are actively worried about the security of their companies’ data. News that the recent hacking of The New York Times’ website was accomplished through a phishing email to employees is a potent reminder that humans are still the weakest link in the data security chain—so make sure that all employees understand and follow your security policies.

The study also asked which communications services were most important to the growth of their businesses. While traditional marketing methods, such as direct mail and fax, were cited by 55 percent, digital means, such as emails, online chat and webinars, were cited by 54 percent. Social media is also crucial to 47 percent, while mobile social media tools such as Foursquare and Google Maps matter to 22 percent.

Is your small business taking advantage of all the tech tools available to you?