By: Jacob Chacko Regional Business Head – Middle East, Saudi & South Africa (MESA) at HPE Aruba
Small and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs as they are more commonly known, are the backbone of any economy. Businesses of this size are one of the largest creators of jobs and are the cornerstone of investment. However, if they fail to optimise their use of technology and digitally transform their workplaces in the coming years, they will struggle to compete in a hyper competitive marketplace.
According to a report by Aruba, ‘The Hidden Middle: How Medium-Sized Businesses Are Quietly Shaping Our Technological Future’, which surveyed over 2,700 employees across small and medium-sized businesses, it discovered that despite being the most active users of workplace technology, many SME employees are worried about the threat of digital transformation. Two thirds of employees at medium-sized businesses (66%) say their organisation was “at risk of falling behind competitors” if they don’t keep up with implementation of new technology. However, in order to effectively keep up with the influx of new technology and devices, SMEs need to integrate the correct network infrastructure to support their business.
Delivering the best Wi-Fi experience is going to be key for SMEs to take the next step in their digital transformation journey. As we continue to move towards more and more digital methods of conducting business, having a wireless network which is consistent and seamless, no matter how many devices are connected, is essential. Gone are the days when businesses can rely on a traditional home network to underpin their operations. Many SMEs are rethinking their networking requirements in order to remain competitive and are desperately in need of a wireless experience, comparable to enterprise networks. In order to implement an effective digital transformation strategy, SMEs need to be looking for purpose-built Wi-Fi solutions that are simple to manage and can effortlessly scale as business needs dictate.
Simple, yet reliable
A key issue for small business owners is that they just don’t have the time to focus on network solutions in the same way that enterprise-level businesses can. There typically isn’t an IT team who are fixing issues or upgrading solutions in the background, while the rest of the team run the business. The best type of network solution is one that is easy and simple to set up and reliable enough to work without owners having to constantly monitor it.
For any SME owners, no matter which field you work in, the main aim is for the Wi-Fi to work without issue for anyone trying to connect to the network. For employees, Wi-Fi is critical, as technology is woven into the everyday operations of most businesses. Fast, reliable connectivity is necessary to serve customers, whether it’s ringing up sales, answering questions or booking appointments.
With the explosion of mobile and IoT devices on the market and the growing trend of ‘flexible working’, users expect to be able to log on to the internet swiftly and securely no matter where they are. Employees want the freedom to work anywhere, rather than be tied down. Wi-Fi is also an expectation while customers shop, eat or wait. If your business is in hospitality, running a boutique hotel for instance, a poor or slow Wi-Fi connection could be the difference between a five-star and four-star review. Equally in retail, if you’ve implemented a secure and scalable network, you can start to digitize your in-store experience, implementing applications to help customers order or find products. This could help turn an average experience into an amazing one and could increase repeat visitors.
Security built in
While there are certainly huge benefits for SMEs to digitally transform their businesses, it also comes with risks. The more you open yourself up to allowing mobile devices to access your network, the more access points hackers have to breach it. Businesses of these sizes are easy targets, due to the lack of security built into their networks. In order to grow your business and protect yourself against breaches, you are going to need an enterprise-grade network with in-built security features designed to segment the network. Many business owners are rightly concerned about letting guests onto their business network. With a traditional home network setup, the best SME owners can do is to make guests have to sign in using a password to add that extra bit of security. However, enterprise-grade networks can segment the network to add an extra layer of security, as well as improve overall performance. For instance, one portion of the network could be confined to administrative work, while another could prioritise guest access. This setup ensures that guest traffic stays separate from business-critical traffic or payments, limiting access points for hackers.
Setting yourself up for the future
In order to remain competitive in today’s constantly evolving digital world, small businesses need to be deploying innovative and scalable solutions which are comparable to larger organisations to create value, reduce costs, mitigate risks, and build customer confidence. By ensuring you have effectively re-evaluated your networking requirements and have implemented Wi-Fi which you know you can rely on and has the in-built security to protect against common threats, you can start to improve the digital experience for both your employees and/or customers. And when your customers and employees are happy, it lets you focus on what matters most – growing your business.