The economy is top-of-mind for everyone these days — and small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) are no exception. Inflation hit a 40-year high, interest rates continue to climb, supply chain issues and the looming risk of a recession is forcing businesses to proceed with caution.
At the same time, companies are still struggling to recruit and retain workers. While the job market has started to cool a bit, there are still more than 10 million job openings in the U.S., and with reduced labor-force participation, there aren’t enough candidates to fill those openings. Because of this, businesses are often understaffed, and it can be a challenge to attract and retain qualified workers.
Amid all this uncertainty, many SMBs are looking for more predictability when it comes to their expenses. When you don’t know how much it’s going to cost to hire your next employee, renew leases, purchase supplies, or borrow money, getting a handle on precisely how much you’re spending on cloud IT solutions and services has become a financial necessity.
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Gain certainty in uncertain times
If you’re hosting your applications in-house, you may be in for a rude awakening. When it comes to supply chains, tech costs are rising, making it difficult to get the gear you need. Inflation is bringing cost increases in areas such as servers and storage. Here’s a definite silver lining: the current economic climate appears to be accelerating the shift to the cloud, with growth predicted to rise more than 20% this year alone according to Gartner. In addition, Producer Price Index (PPI) data shows a steep year-over-year price increase for host computers and servers — a 21% surge over pricing levels in June 2021. The cloud has typically been a source of efficiencies, if not outright savings, given that it sidesteps depreciation cycles by derailing what has come to be known as the “IT rollercoaster.”
As IDC noted in a September 2022 report, “many SMBs do not have a deep well of reserves to sustain their businesses for years during tough economic times.” And that makes it critical for them to apply technology smartly and zero in on efficiency, cost savings, productivity and automation—and fast—to weather today’s economic storms. But what are SMBs grappling with, specifically, from the long list macroeconomic woes circling the globe today? The answer, IDC finds, depends on where an SMB resides.
“New IDC research into the macroeconomic challenges of SMBs across the globe, unveiled through our BuyerView Cloud Pulse program, illustrates that while SMBs worldwide are dealing with intensified macroeconomic issues, the specific concerns vary greatly by region.
“By size, smaller SMBs say supply chain issues are leading to a lack of IT equipment/materials. This is likely because the smallest SMBs use fewer cloud technologies and rely on more basic and physical IT, such as laptops, mobile devices, printers and servers. “When we asked about the technology improvements and enhancements SMBs made in the 12 months leading up to Q1 of 2022 to boost resiliency, the results showed SMBs lag behind their enterprise counterparts.”
Attract and retain employees with flexible work models
The work-from-home trend necessitated by COVID-19 gained serious traction and many workers are hoping to continue with a remote or hybrid work model moving forward — perhaps indefinitely. In fact, in an ADP survey, 64% of the global workforce said they have already, or would consider, looking for a new job if their employer required that they return to the office full time. What does this mean? In a still-tight labor market, you must be prepared to offer flexible work options for candidates and employees. Eighty-seven percent of workers whose employers offered “at least some remote work” have taken advantage of the opportunity, spending an average of three days a week doing their jobs remotely.
More employers are jumping on the remote work bandwagon to retain talent and control labor costs. According to recent research, 38% of companies reported an increase in remote work offerings over the last year “to keep employees happy and to moderate wage-growth pressures.” A similar percentage said they expect the next year to be much the same.
Choose an IT partner with care
Managed deftly, IT can help you attract and retain employees by supporting seamless remote or hybrid work models. Look for scalable cloud platforms that enable your employees to work from anywhere. Employees are increasingly interested in an identical user experience whether they’re working in the office, at home, or from another location. They can even use multiple monitors when working from remote locations to maximize their productivity and satisfaction. Users today value, and can have, 24/7 access to the IT help they need — no matter where they choose to work.
If you’re looking to realize greater cost predictability when it comes to IT, the cloud is the way to go — but keep in mind that not all cloud providers are created equal. Look for a cloud provider that hosts applications and data in a virtualization environment built from the ground up for total data protection. SMBs deserve a cloud environment complete with firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, and consistent software patched and updates – all from a physically secure data center.
Simply put, it’s easier to keep data secure in one centralized cloud environment than it is in multiple locations, whether in end-users’ laptops to in-house serves to file storage services.
In sum, let the provider do the worrying around issues like security and data protection, so you don’t have to. You can make running your business your top priority – which, after all, probably isn’t information technology – and take on the revenue-generating things that will keep you ahead of any potential economic downturn.