Small Business Technology Trends for 2014 - Page 2

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Big Data for Small Companies

Big data analytics used to be too expensive and too complicated for small businesses, and it required a data science team's help. That's no longer the case, and some experts predict that 2014 will be the year that small business owners finally begin taking advantage of big data analytics.

"Small and medium size businesses don't often realize how much useful data is at their fingertips and how they can make it work for them," said SiSense CEO Amit Bendov. "Just because you're a small business, doesn't mean you can't analyze your big data. And these days, SMBs often have massive amounts of data."

For example, Bendov points out that you can analyze previous years' sales along with social media and a variety of other data sources to determine which items you should promote most heavily online and in-store, whether or not it's advisable to put certain items on sale, and how to stock your store and warehouse. SiSense's Prism software offers analytics and more, including interactive dashboards, the capability to manage and "mashup" data, and to uncover and explore associations in your data that you may have missed.

"We have a customer who was able to increase his margins significantly when the company's big-data analytics revealed certain items sell even when not on sale," Bendov explained. "Now he know there's no need to slash prices on those items during the holiday season."

Venkat Viswanathan, CEO and founder of LatentView, concurs. "Data analytics is a huge trend, and visionary small business owners will take advantage of analytics in 2014," he opines. "Various cloud platforms are making analytics accessible—it is no longer something that only large corporations can afford."

He predicts that small businesses will look into predictive analytics because of the tremendous value it has for companies that can't afford to take guesses that could potentially lead to losses. "For many years, companies have built data platforms and analytics infrastructure with a significant emphasis on hindsight: look-back reports that help businesses check their rear view mirrors," he notes.

However, in 2014, there will be increased acknowledgement that companies need to start developing insight and foresight. "With better insight and a forward-looking predictive view, businesses are less reactive and able to be more proactive and shape their outcomes, which can really take small businesses to the next level."

Desktops? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Desktops

Granted, desktop PCs will be with us for quite some time. But it will become harder and harder to justify purchasing a desktop for you or your employees unless they require a workstation-class PC for CAD, high-end video production, and the like. Several trends conspire to make the desktop PC obsolete—with the obsolescence of the traditional laptop not too far behind.

Fast mobile processors: Increases in speed from the Intel and AMD mobile CPUs and graphic chipsets mean that the vast majority of employees don't need a desktop processor to get their work done. So the number of business owners opting for a clunky desktop over a mobile laptop for their employees will continue to shrink.

Laptops that convert to tablets: The growing number of "convertible" computers—with swivel-and-fold screens that turn the laptop into a tablet—make the laptop option an even more attractive choice. Examples of convertibles include the Acer Aspire R7, Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro, and HP EliteBook Revolve. As prices for these premium models start to drop in 2014, the case for such a flexible laptop over a desktop becomes even more compelling.

Cloud-based everything: The growing power and features of today's tablet devices, combined with the unending availability of local- and cloud-based business apps, will lead many business owners to conclude that some employees don't need a PC at all, in any form. Since no actual computing is going on locally, you don't need the computer; all you might need is a tablet or ChromeBook—any device with Internet access.

Internet-aware devices: Another continuing trend that promises to push PCs to the side is "the Internet of things:" smart devices that are Internet-aware and don't need a computer to connect to the Web. Multifunction printers (MFPs) have been on the front lines here, with technologies such as Brother Web Connect, Dell Document Hub, and HP's MFP apps and HP Connected service that enable employees to scan documents to and print documents from cloud storage services right from the printer, without having to touch a PC.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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This article was originally published on January 15, 2014
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