Cash flow, fatigue, finding and retaining profitable customers and staying current with technology – these are just some of the problems faced by Canadian small business owners. These issues were brought to the forefront last week during Small Business Week.
There are more than 1.3 million businesses in Canada. Ninety-eight cent of these companies are either small businesses or micro-businesses and employ over 70 per cent of the workforce in the private sector.
Despite that significant footprint, digital technology adoption remains low among small businesses. According to a 2017 Startup Canada report, the main barriers to general digital adoption among Small Business Owners (SBOs) were high cost (44 per cent) and time (38 per cent) with updating and maintaining new technology platforms within their companies. These same barriers were also stated by SBOs looking to adopt advanced digital technologies.
This is problematic considering we are moving towards a place where work is no longer a place – even for small businesses. It’s an increasingly dynamic activity that people expect to be as adaptable as they are. Employees, especially top-talent and millennials, are looking for flexibility and mobility in their workplace.
Providing the right technologies to support workplace trends is critical to finding and maintaining the best people. Small businesses are vulnerable to being overrun by bigger companies, with larger budgets and more advanced infrastructure, if they lag in this area.
One avenue to level the playing field is cloud computing, which lets small business reap the benefits of cloud while avoiding the unpleasant costs of investing in IT infrastructure and maintenance. For example, a small communications agency or a delivery franchise can give employees access to work applications on the go, enabling them to be more productive and efficient while not risking security or convenience. This can mean supplying work applications, such as Salesforce, Office 365, QuickBooks Online and more while out of the office. Ultimately, cloud computing can provide small businesses with new levels of flexibility and mobility.
Other benefits for small businesses include data backup, easier information-sharing across devices, file storage, and importantly – the right sized infrastructure.
Having the right digital technology means small businesses are prepared to scale – whether up or down. The cloud can be customized to the unique size of the workforce, the roster of projects, or other variables. This means small businesses don’t have to put up an initial investment in IT infrastructure that may be useless if a company experiences a downturn or loses a big client but can also be accelerated if necessary. There’s no need to hire an IT manager if a business grows, only to fire them if it shrinks. Usage can be small and gradually increase when needed.
This is possible because small businesses can outsource to cloud service providers that maintain the IT infrastructure for them. This includes the major players such as AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure, which can often operate in tandem with a company’s on-premise IT. By hiring a cloud vendor, cloud computing apps are regularly updated, so owners don’t have to spend time and money doing it.
Perhaps most importantly, cloud services have built-in security features– making it one less line item business-owners have to worry about.
It’s a well-publicized reality that cybersecurity can be a company’s pitfall. Facebook, Uber, Equifax – these are the company case studies that get thrown around. However, security should be at the top of the corporate priority list, in every industry and every size– which research has found not to be the case. For example, the Citrix Cloud and Security Survey found four-in-10 Canadians email work data home to their personal email. It also found that 63 per cent have shopped or surfed the web on a company device, and 50 per cent have been a victim of a phishing email or an online virus.
Incorporating services such as cloud, or virtualization – where work data is stored in a virtual data center that is secured rather than on the device itself – can limit opportunities for breaches, whether they are caused by malicious attacks or employee mistakes.
Small businesses, whether they want to grow to a larger company or stay small and nimble, have the opportunity to join the movement to more mobile, flexible and secure workplaces. As competitors increasingly hop on this trend, small business owners’ bottom lines may just depend on whether they can compete in an uncertain economy.
By Ching Mac, Director for Citrix Canada.
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