Office Technology Heads in New Direction in 2012

by Talk Business & Politics ([email protected]) 55 views 

The arrival of 2012 and the annual Technology issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal seems like a good time to take stock of the state of technology for small and mid-sized businesses. Where do things stand? What are the key trends and directions? How should these businesses be thinking about their technology as they plan the next few years?

Today, most SMBs own their phone system, applications servers, file servers, email servers, data storage, back-up hardware and tools, along with all of the applications they need to run their business. These items represent a significant investment of capital.

The fact is, today it is not necessary to own any of those things, but still have your business completely functional.

Technology today is in the midst of a serious change from an ownership model to a renting-of-services model. The “right” approach of the last few years is no longer necessarily the “right” approach. In its place are multiple options and questions with cost and risk trade-offs to consider.

The key direction to be aware of can be stated fairly generically:  Things are moving to the “Cloud.” Storage, infrastructure, software -— all followed by the phrase “as a service,” — are readily available today.

Gartner Group projects that by 2015, more than 50 percent of the Global 1000 companies will be storing business-sensitive data in the public cloud. Multiple services exist for SMBs available for replacement of existing file and applications servers.

Hosted voice services (VoIP) are growing at a 55 percent compound annual growth rate in the SMB space. Hosted business software is currently growing at a 20 percent rate each year, and 25 percent of all Microsoft Exchange Email is hosted.

This change is being driven by cash flow and operating cost considerations, flexibility and “speed to solution.” As an example, from the first thought to a fully implemented voice solution can take as little as three days, with the long lead-time item being having the phones overnighted. Server space can be purchased and ready to use in a couple of hours.

Another key direction to be aware of is this:  The world is moving beyond Microsoft as the “be all, end all” solution for businesses. While Microsoft will continue to have a huge role in large data centers and with cloud service providers, its sales into SMBs and businesses in general will decline over the next few years.

In a recent InformationWeek survey of companies with 500 or more employees, 48 percent said they had no plans to upgrade to the Windows 8 operating system, and 30 percent said they had no plans to upgrade from Windows XP to anything.

Microsoft is so far behind Apple (iOS,) Google (Android) and Blackberry in the mobile arena that they have almost no prayer of catching up.

Which leads to another key direction: The world is going mobile, and not just due to smartphones, but to the overall change being brought forth by cloud technology. A cloud-based VoIP system allows you to be on your company phone system anywhere you have an Internet connection.

The same can be true of your data and applications. You don’t have to “go to the office” to have all the tools of your office, except for the copier. Fax services are completely available in the cloud. Laptops and iPads are becoming normal business tools.

So, as the owner of a small or mid-sized business, how should these directions influence you in the future?

It is pretty simple. If you own a technology device today beyond what sits on your desk or you hold in your hand, strongly consider making plans to not own it in the future. Do not buy a new phone system or any type of file server. Applications software should be evaluated to determine if or when you can move into the cloud, either on hosted application servers or outright replacement with cloud-based software as a service.

Careful identification, evaluation and implementation of cloud-based services and solutions can significantly lower the technology cost of ownership for your business while increasing the quality, flexibility and time to benefit of your business solutions.

Steven Hankins is CEO and co-founder of, a technology company providing advisory and management services for small to medium-sized businesses. He can be reached at [email protected].