2011: Some big trends that will affect your business

Almost everyone in the IT industry predicts upswings in the use of cloud computing this year. As more and more small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) discover the myriad advantages (some of which were discussed in our last issue), there could be a mass migration to the services offered.

More SMEs will go up to the clouds in 2011
Here are five hot cloud computing services that companies are gravitating towards, according to the Washington Post:

  1. Hosted PBX. Smaller companies that want to communicate like the Fortune 500 are using hosted cloud-based private branch exchange (PBX) over a managed Voice over Private Internet (VoPI) services. This allows your employees to be reachable at one number regardless of where they are or what type of phone technology is available to them, making communications more efficient and cost-effective.
  2. Hosted video conferencing and telepresence. Virtual video gatherings eliminate unnecessary travel time and costs and increase employee productivity
  3. Hosted desktop virtualization. There are savings to be had by replacing hard-drive-equipped computers with thinner terminals and by moving data storage to the cloud or Web, and virtual desktops can be set up quickly and accessed from any PC with Internet access.
  4. Secure network-wide online storage. Cost effective, this technology keeps your data secure and allows remote access from any Internet-connected device or location. Providers offer 24/7 monitoring, management and reporting features that many companies might not otherwise be able to afford.
  5. Converged communications. This refers to integrating data, voice and video communications over a single IP network, increasing the ability to share, discuss and develop ideas with colleagues anywhere in the world.

Smartphones, yes. But tablets for business?
According to Deloitte Canada, more tablets and smartphones will be sold this year than desktop computers. Furthermore, that enterprise segment will account for over one quarter of the 50 million tablets set to ship this year worldwide. Canadians buy about six million PCs per year, more than half of which are laptops. In 2011, we will buy about the same number of smartphones and tablets combined.

  • PC vs. tablet. But while virtualization and cloud computing are making smartphones and tablets far better computer substitutes than could have been predicted a few years ago, Deloitte declares that PCs are not dead yet. Tablets have much less on-board storage and are about 90% less powerful than even the cheapest non-netbook PCs.

Tap into the social media world
Companies, large and small, are jumping on the social media bandwagon at a fast and furious rate. Here's how some of your competitors may be marketing their products and services. Would any of these trends work for you?

  • Facebook and Twitter coupons, giveaways and contests. Businesses are creating Fan Pages on Facebook, sometimes using it to replace direct mail and other marketing vehicles. It allows you to engage with customers, promoting "Fan" only type discounts, including coupons and giveaways. Twitter is also a growing contest and product give-away medium that can help promote brand awareness and measure customer interaction.
  • Social coupon websites. Using websites like Groupon or LivingSocial, businesses can offer steeply-discounted services or products to a vast network of followers. This is a great way to deal with overstock or low-overhead services. Some companies also offer further discounts if friends also decide to buy, so you can spread awareness about your company in true viral-marketing style. With new social coupon sites seemingly popping-up every other week, this is a very interesting space for the SMB B2C market right now.
  • Email marketing integration. Expect to see more companies using email marketing both to coordinate efforts to engage customers on social media while, at the same time, retain customers who haven't yet made the transition to social media. Even if you don't have a Facebook or Twitter account for your business, you can use email marketing to provide links to articles and blogs.
  • In-person interaction. A relatively new social networking trend is to use social media to promote events, for example, or to encourage customers to visit in-store locations. Both Twitter and Facebook can be used to allow customers to RSVP, building anticipation.

In 2011, business owners will be looking very closely at the technologies that can help them work better, smarter and faster, and will be examining new ways to reach customers. Primus can help you sort through some of the technology solutions that might work best for your business. Visit our business data, voice and hosting services to find out how.