Embracing new technologies is essential in enabling small businesses to tap their full potential and remain competitive. Two years ago, Gartner predicted that 25 per cent of organisations would lose their market position by 2017 due to “digital business incompetence”. Even though this may be a strong assertion, the bottom line is many small businesses don’t harness the full potential of such technologies.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Reluctance to digitally transform a business doesn’t always indicate technological unawareness.” user=”toshibaUK” usehashtags=”no”]

Reluctance to digitally transform a business doesn’t always indicate technological unawareness. Most SMBs are well aware of the potential of mobile technology, but a number of concerns remain –prevalent among these is concern around storing and accessing business data in the cloud. There are always decisions to be made before getting started: How does a business ensure its data is securely accessible? How is disruption avoided during the implementation process? Are the costs manageable? But SMBs shouldn’t let any doubts keep them from reaping the benefits of mobile working, instead viewing technology like the cloud as the enabler it is.

 SMBs shouldn’t let any doubts keep them from reaping the benefits of mobile working

Cloud at the heart of mobility

More so than their larger competitors, SMBs are in need of competitive edge that levels the playing field for them. By honing their mobility strategy, SMBs can increase overall productivity and responsiveness, improve customer experience and employee satisfaction. Cloud storage can be the centrepiece which allows mobile workers to stay connected and be productive no matter the time or place. It is crucial that businesses get this right at the beginning. By paying attention to a few important details, SMBs can make sure cloud technology becomes a value-adding part of their business.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Cloud storage can be the centrepiece which allows mobile workers to stay connected” user=”toshibaUK” hashtags=”cloudstorage”]

There is no one-size-fits-all approach on how to implement a cloud strategy. For SMBs, which often lack dedicated in-house IT resource, it can be appropriate to only move selected files onto the mobile platform. This way, disruption of business processes and security breaches are less likely to occur. Also, adopting a mobile strategy doesn’t necessarily mean moving all documents into the cloud at once. Taking time allows businesses to ease into the new technology. It is only natural if mistakes occur more frequently while employees are getting used to different processes. A bite-size approach can be easier to digest, ensuring the right processes are in place before this approach is rolled out more broadly.

Security and education: a strong IT framework

a well-managed IT policy is essential to mitigating risk in the cloud

One of the most common reasons for SMBs to abstain from the cloud is security concerns. Mobile working and the use of cloud technology can of course be a security threat if there is no strategy in place – in any business, the weakest link is often the employee, so a well-managed IT policy is essential to mitigating risk in the cloud. Companies need to restrict access where it isn’t authorised, introducing mobile device management tools such as secure containers which enable devices to be remotely wiped if necessary.

Equally important is making sure employees understand the risks associated with data theft. For example, if a paper file was marked ‘Confidential’ then it would almost certainly be looked after more carefully. Transitioning this mentality into the digital world can stop employees from using forbidden services or downloading any highly sensitive files which can then easily be left in a taxi and accessed at the click of an unlocked smartphone or laptop button.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Equipping staff with the right hardware, built for business use, adds an extra layer of security” user=”ToshibaUK and @comparethecloud” usehashtags=”no”]

Similarly, equipping staff with the right hardware, built for business use, adds an extra layer of security. The difference between business-grade and consumer devices is widening all the time, so it is important to implement a Choose Your Own Device strategy which provides flexibility within a controlled selection of secure laptops. Devices such as Toshiba’s Satellite Pro R50-B include built-in protective measures such as Trusted Platform Module, which ensures sensitive business data stays safe on local storage. Being designed specifically for SMBs, these laptops are also lightweight and feature numerous connectivity options that make them ideal for mobile business and cloud solutions.

Choosing the cloud to suit your business worst computer viruses

Different cloud services cater to different types of customers. As with hardware, there are broad differences between consumer and business-grade cloud storage – namely the features available, security standards and price. And as with devices, it’s strongly advisable to go with business-targeted cloud solutions. Really, SMBs should completely eradicate consumer cloud services except for storage of publicly available and non-confidential data.

When choosing a supplier, it is best to go for trusted names which not only offer value and security, but also the tools to work in a more connected and efficient way across the board. For added confidence, some vendors will offer a trial period of up to 90 days, allowing customers to test the service and experience the benefits first hand. Toshiba Cloud Client Manager is one such tool, built to allow companies of any size easy and complete device management, with comprehensive tools to ensure efficiency and compliance.

A reputable provider will offer multiple options to safeguard files

A reputable provider will also offer multiple options to safeguard files, from password protected platform access to additional authorisation for sensitive files. SMBs may even find that their data is more secure in the cloud than it is on an on-site hard drive: cloud data is always encrypted. Cloud backup also contributes greatly to peace of mind to have a copy of all important documents in case anything should happen to jeopardise the safety of hard drive records.

Granted, at the beginning, mobile transformation may require some investment. But while mobile devices are a one off investment, cloud services do not require a big up-front capital expense. They offer an affordable, monthly price-point which tends to suit an SMB’s cash cycle. What’s more, cloud services are very easily scalable as the enterprise grows, allowing smaller organisations to get a suitable process in place that suits their current needs and can adapt to meet their future requirements.

Unlocking the productivity potential of cloud apps

SMBs need only look at the great variety of business-specific cloud applications to gain an idea of the possibilities to step up productivity. From sharing and editing documents online to organising and tracking staff’s time, cloud apps help avoid lengthy processes by making information accessible to everyone at any given time, regardless of their location. The abundance of apps also means there is a tool to boost productivity across all areas of the business – be it anything from sales to customer service or even HR. In addition, improved connectivity increases productivity by encouraging flexible working schemes such as working from home. For collaborative work, cloud apps offer a streamlined and less error prone process. And one more thing to consider; by using cloud applications – SMBs can effectively outsource their IT to the cloud provider, who takes care of the updates and maintenance.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Improved #connectivity increases #productivity by encouraging flexible working” user=”comparethecloud” usehashtags=”no”]

Instead of being a source of concern, cloud computing eases the burden of security, disruption and cost. The risks associated with IT transformation are easily manageable if a business analyses its security needs, partners with a trusted cloud supplier, and adopts cloud storage at its own pace. Within a well-executed mobility strategy, cloud technology can become an enabler for SMBs to harness the full potential of mobile working. The future looks bright for SMBs who understand the opportunity of investing in a powerful cloud service. In today’s ever-more mobile world, it is crucial they seize it.

cloud computing eases the burden of security, disruption and cost

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Neil Bramley, European SMB Director, Toshiba

Neil Bramley has worked for Toshiba for 20 years, currently serving as European SMB Director and Business Unit Director, B2B PC, Northern Europe.

In his Pan-European role of European SMB Director, Neil oversees the enrichment and delivery of Toshiba’s SMB propositions to meet customer requirements across Europe.

He is also responsible for the B2B PC business in Northern Europe for both Partners and Clients across all Business Market Sectors, ensuring success commercially and organisationally, and, importantly, that the customer needs of today and tomorrow are met in the most effective manner.

With almost 30 years’ experience in the IT industry, Neil previously worked at both Reseller and Distribution organisations where he attained an in-depth knowledge of Partner Businesses and onward service delivery to clients. Since 1995, Neil’s career at Toshiba has included work with Corporate, Public Sector and SMB organisations, as well as Channel Reseller and Distributor Partners and associated Business Management.