By: Robert Thompson, Vice President of Comcast Business Mountain West Region
Find the article on page 9 of the Silicon Slopes Magazine Summer 2020 Issue.
Imagine this scenario: You’ve graduated college and you’re walking into a job interview for your first office job, excited to show what you could bring to the company. As you look around the office, something slowly dawns on you: Employees are working off tower computers with wired printers, the conference room doesn’t have a video conferencing screen, and is that a fax machine in the corner?
While this is certainly not the case in every office, it is true that some small businesses still use antiquated technology for their day-to-day activities — and for younger generations, seeing this type of environment is a red flag. This is not somewhere they want to work.
Millennials now account for a third of the U.S. labor force, while Gen Z accounts for about 5%, and these numbers are only growing.
The trend of workplaces skewing younger isn’t going away, and for businesses to attract the best junior talent out there, they need to modernize accordingly. Having up-to-date technology that makes employees’ lives easier is a critical step toward getting the best people of all ages to work for you.
Having younger generations in the workplace isn’t the only way small businesses are changing, here are three other trends that are impacting the technology environment at small businesses.
The Internet of Things is more accessible
The Internet of Things (IoT) has a myriad of uses that even small businesses can get on board with — and it doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking. As an example, retail stores can combine barcodes, RFID tags, IoT devices, sensors and cameras in stockrooms or stores to allow remote and centralized inventory management.
One technology that supports IoT is LoRaWAN, or low-power, wide-area networking. This networking infrastructure relies on radio frequency connectivity, which penetrates thick building walls better than cellular connectivity and can reach across large distances. Rather than replacing WiFi, this network complements it by supporting applications that WiFi isn’t ideal for.
Even if a small business has multiple locations within a city, LoRaWAN can act as a central gateway, linking all sensors and devices across an area. Thinking back to inventory and stockroom sensors, LoRaWAN would allow a business owner in an office across town to monitor multiple stores’ inventory in real time.
Hackers target the little guys
While large enterprises have the resources to protect their networks against the ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity threats, smaller organizations have tighter budgets and minimal (or no) IT departments — one of the main reasons hackers target small businesses.
However, the cost of being hacked far outweighs the costs of preventive measures, which means even businesses without a large budget should dedicate resources to employing stringent cybersecurity technologies. For example, endpoint protection platforms help protect the internet-connected devices that employees and customers use every day (smartphones, tablets, IoT smart products) with everything from malware, ransomware, phishing, botnets and more.
The cloud enables remote workforces
The cloud hosts files, data and applications within a centralized server accessible from any device with connectivity, reducing the need for pricey hardware and specialized IT skills. As more businesses move critical applications and programs to the cloud, employees can work from anywhere on their company-issued mobile devices, or even on their own devices.
The cloud has led many businesses, large and small, to enable work-from-home policies. The caveat here is that employees need to have virtual access to the same information that they would have access to in a physical office.
Small businesses that deploy a cloud strategy must provide employees with ways to share information, sync schedules, process important documents and back everything up in real time — and with a way to do it all securely. Many technology providers offer cloud solutions apps and Software-as-a-Service (in which software lives in the cloud, not on an individual’s computer). To be successful with both cloud and remote work, determine what tools and applications employees need to do their jobs, and ensure that a cloud environment mimics the in-office experience.
These key trends indicate that technology has become intertwined with our daily work lives, and that’s not changing any time soon. The good news is that many technologies have been available for long enough that a main barrier to entry for small businesses — cost — is not as much of a factor as it used to be. Do your research, talk to trusted technology providers, rely on experts’ advice and your small business can deploy the same technologies global corporations use — but on a scale that’s right for you.