Small Business Technology Trends for 2020

So here we cover what we think is going to continue to be adopted by small businesses during 2020, in terms of technology – IT and Telecoms…..Small Business Technology Trends for 2020…

You can watch a video introduction of this here – You Tube

IT and Telecoms Support in 2020

We meet with business people all the time.

Last week I saw a customer who had been waiting 3 weeks for their supplier to resolve a problem. This is not untypical and it is clear that many IT and Telecoms suppliers really don’t value their customer service – they concentrate far too much on profit and getting new customers, rather than looking after what they have got – madness!

It’s great for us as we do focus on being responsive and proactive.

IT Ticketing system

Many customers just simply are not prepared to put up with it but sadly, many are tied up in long unfair contracts or are afraid of moving to a new supplier for various reasons.

The answer is to find several suppliers that are local and take references from their existing customers.

Some suppliers will allow you choice with regards to support – either up front credits, a monthly charge to include all support (plus visits are sometimes extra) or just pay as you go – some are less flexible so always check…

Telecoms trends for 2020

Without a doubt, the move away from premises based systems, or a PBX (a control unit in the premises) has been a huge factor since around 2015.

This will continue.

In fact, I think it was 2014 that I last personally supplied a premises-based phone system – why would you?

The big players, like AVAYA and Mitel (for whom we have installed 100’s or maybe thousands of systems over the years) have been slow to adapt. Meanwhile, forward thinking companies, like Gamma, have cleaned up.

It is estimated that around 50% of businesses have now moved away from ISDN to either a fully hosted system, like Gamma Horizon or they have retained their phone system and moved their ISDN to SIP. The former being the most popular in the sub 200 extension market, and our string preference.

VoIP Phone

In most cases, businesses can upgrade and actually spend less money than they did before and get better features. However, not all suppliers and solutions are the same – there are so many niche players out there it is difficult to understand the market – our advice is still to a BMW – ie a market leader.

The use of sot phones, smart phone apps and mobile twinning means that users can work from anywhere in the world at any time without being tied to their desk phone.

There is so much choice available – it is noy like 25 years ago when we started – there were only about 12 system manufacturers! Now there is a significant number of players, some being pretty niche and home made – take customer references!

And in the contact centre world, businesses are now as much interested in contact with customers via social media and emails as much as voice calls and modern contact centres now use media blending to answer all such correspondence.

5G is much talked about and we are likely to see this rolled out more and more – although there are major health concerns which is very worrying!

Small Business IT trends for 2020

The move away from premises based servers to The Cloud is set to continue for similar reasons as explained above.

It isn’t the right solution for everyone right now but for most, moving to Microsoft Office 365 and Azure (or similar) is a no brainer.

Why keep an expensive bit of hardware that ages and needs constant support and upgrades? Pretty pointless unless you really have to (some businesses do as they continue to have to use server based software for one reason or another). However, moving their users to Office 365 for email and file sharing can easily be done whilst retaining stuff on site that needs to stay there – a kind of hybrid solution.

Upgrading your IT

Plus if you do need to keep servers on site, making them virtual servers so that you can instantly restore them and move them around when there is an issue is definitely worthwhile and more efficient.

We suggest you get at least 3 different suppliers in to give you advice….they may all come up with slightly different solutions – some suppliers are more forward thinking than others  – some are a bit stuck in the past. Ask them to explain their offering and why they have come up with that particular option.

Cyber security continues to be a big topic. Even the smallest of businesses can be vulnerable – size doesn’t matter. So it is critical that all sizes of business takes it seriously and doesn’t pay lip service to security – it isn’t that expensive to use something like BIT DEFENDER and Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection. At least make sure you have protection and it is up to date – often free options arent the best. Also some software really slows down your pc so do your research.

Likewise, maintaining usable back ups is often not given enough importance and scrutiny. Just because your IT people bill you for back ups doesn’t end the story there ! Test restores of data should be done frequently. Plus resiliency can be achieved quite easily and affordably.

Keeping things up to date is also important – look at what happened to the NHS using Windows 98! Keeping computers on Windows 10 and ensuring server operating systems are kept up to date is critical. Often customers will lease hardware on either a 3 year or 5 year lease and this is a good option as it means you are upgrading regularly, whilst being tax efficient.

Being agile whilst looking after your staff

I have said for many years that THE most important thing in a business is people – your staff.

It is so easy now to give your people the tools so they can work from anywhere – be that at home, on the move or at a place which isn’t the office. Again this is one of the biggest Small Business Technology Trends for 2020

Whilst many leaders worry that they cannot keep an eye on their staff, my answer is….if that is your thinking maybe you have the wrong people.

Good motivated people may be harder to find than anything else – but once you have them, why not ask them if they would prefer to work from home for part of their working week? You will probably find they would be very happy with that and probably more productive.

No need to work at the office

Using technology like hosted telephony, Office 365, Sharepoint, Teams, Collaboration tools which allow audio and video conferencing and chat and desktop sharing are now excellent.

Things like this have never been easier to roll out if you pick the right suppliers.

Faster internet connections for business

By far, this is one of the most frustrating areas for many businesses. In fact this is one of the biggest factors in Small Business Technology Trends for 2020

The good news in the government are currently subsidising direct fibre internet connections to the tune of £ 2,500/2,800 worth of installation charges – however, we have heard that this may be stopping soon!

Many businesses have take advantage of this and we have done lots of the for our customers.

This applies where a business just uses a broadband connection (including fibre broadband). They can replace it with a direct fibre (rather than just fibre broadband) which will be much faster (up and down) and have a Service Level Agreement so if it goes wrong, it gets fixed within a few hours. This is called a leased line.

Small Business Technology Trends for 2020 - Fibre internet Leased Line

Unfortunately, for some businesses in rural areas, internet connection availability is still very poor – often there are solutions if you deal with the right supplier but sometimes, the list of solutions is a very small one.

Essential PC upgrades for 2020

As well as making sure all your PC’s are using Windows 10 for an operating system, it is a no brainer  to upgrade older pc’s with hard disk drives  (HDD) to solid state drives (SSD) and 8Gb RAM. This speeds up your machine significantly and isn’t expensive. It might extend the life of your hardware significantly.

Upgrading Wi-Fi

Another area of frustration for small businesses is Wi-Fi. Installing additional access points with faster speeds is easy and quite affordable. For larger premises, a proper audit can be done illustrating where access points are needed and in what location.

Office cabling upgrades

Even with good wi-fi, there is still no substitute for fast hard-wired connections and most businesses should now be using Cat6 cabling rather than older Cat5e or even Cat5  – alongside this, there is no point in doing this if you are using older network switches and home made or old patch cables. All this is pretty affordable and a proper survey can uncover the costs of doing it.

Strangely, not all IT companies are into cabling so shop around and get 3 different quotations – and take references. Some suppliers sub-contract alot of cabling work so ask the question.

Office cabling upgrades - Comms room before and after

Office Relocations in 2020

This is a key watershed opportunity to review both telecoms and IT and an office move can be done with pretty-much zero disruption using the right suppliers. Picking and office with good internet connectivity is critical and having a knowledgeable supplier who can instantly check what is available in a prospective office is invaluable! Moving your phone system is a breeze when you use hosted telephony – IT is similar if you pick the right suppliers!

We hope this is useful – if you want any advice on Small Business Technology Trends for 2020, please call 01892 578666 or email helpme@tecwork.co.uk