- Cloud Hosting
- Hybrid Clouds
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
In our previous article “When Should You Replace Small-Business Technology?”, we talked about how interconnected technology now is with business. Since that’s the case, you will give your business a boost by staying abreast of emergent technologies that can deliver a competitive advantage. Here are five IT concepts with which you want to be familiar in 2015:
Companies typically spend large portions of their budget on technology, but they aren’t buying as many physical machines. Instead, they are purchasing tech resources “as a service” through cloud providers. While you may think of cloud computing as a consumer or business running a program on a provider’s cloud (as is the case with many software-as-a-service providers), you can actually get your own virtual machine through infrastructure-as-a-service, aka cloud hosting.
“Cloud hosting accomplishes the same goals as an on-premises server,” explained Digity CEO Seth Bailey, “but instead of storing all your files locally (e.g., on a server at your place of business), all your data and documents reside in a secure sever located on the Internet.”
Just like Apple users can access their music and photos from anywhere or Dropbox users can access large files anywhere, a cloud server allows you and your workforce to access your network wherever and whenever. It is also typically budget-friendly.
If you think that getting your own cloud server (controlled and managed by yourself, the hosting company, or a third party) makes sense, you then need to look at the three basic categories of cloud environments: public, private, and hybrid infrastructures.
Security in public cloud get stronger all the time, but some organizations prefer the enhanced security of a private cloud. Although the private version allows you more control and contains your data within dedicated machines, it is pricier than public cloud. Many businesses combine public and private components into a hybrid cloud.
“Hybrid clouds combine the best qualities of private and public,” said Bailey. “They can be just as cheap as public clouds, but they still offer your business better privacy.”
IT analysis firm Technology Business Research forecast the following cloud industry growth rates for 2015:
- Public cloud – 25%
- Private cloud – 35%
- Hybrid cloud – 50%
A simple term that describes electronic invoicing, e-invoicing aggregates invoices and makes them available to both you and your customers. These systems, often run through the cloud, automate part of the invoicing process. The workload is decreased for accounting, and you no longer have to pay for the paper.
Making a major change to the way you get paid isn’t easy, but Bailey noted it will cut your costs long-term.
“Your Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) will vanish very quickly,” he argued. “And, as with any paperless solution, your company becomes greener by adopting e-invoicing.”
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
If you want to have better control over sales and customer service, monitoring and organizing everything in one place, you will want to invest in a customer relationship management system. A CRM, frequently a cloud tool as well, aggregates and clarifies all data related to particular accounts. You can also automate some tasks so that your salespeople and service reps aren’t slowed down by tedious repetition.
You will be less likely to make errors because aspects such as names and addresses are automatically populated into the appropriate forms and documents from one source; when that one location is updated, everything adapts seamlessly. No more misspelling names in emails or forgetting to contact a lead at an agreed time.
You can use a CRM for other purposes as well, such as for hiring. You can monitor job candidates quickly and easily, taking advantage of the same user-friendly, intuitive platform design that helps salespeople organize their efforts.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
Small businesses often see the name of ERP and think it is more relevant to large businesses. However, these systems – again, cloud-based in many cases – can be helpful to anyone. You can use ERP software to manage data throughout all the pieces of your company, with cloud tools typically updating in real-time.
Trying to decide the right path forward for your business is enhanced by ERP, through which you can gauge impact of potential actions on various departments.
“ERP software makes it easier to keep your company agile,” said Bailey, “as it shows every department what the others are doing, and it encourages fluidity rather than rigid structure.”
An ERP system can give you a competitive edge by giving your business cohesion and allowing you to adapt to fluctuations immediately.
Fluid Adaptation with Technology
Flexibility is a critical component of all the above technologies. If you can react quickly, then you can ouptace competitors. Plus, if you are successful, you need to scale.
Note that all the above systems either are cloud tech or are frequently delivered through cloud virtual machines, which are fundamentally designed to scale seamlessly to meet your growing demand. Want to explore cloud? Set up and create your own cloud VM today for free.
By Kent Roberts