Many small to medium businesses (SMBs) are facing growing pains: they’re under pressure to provide top-flight customer service, foster productivity for a hybrid workforce, and adopt robust digital tools to make both experiences possible company-wide. At the same time, SMBs need to keep an eye on the bottom line—boosting profits and maintaining data security with lean IT teams.
A recent survey1 of business and technology leaders in U.S. small and midsize businesses (SMBs) reveals that business ambitions in this challenging era are being built on network technology. The research, from Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) company, found that 95% of SMB tech and business leaders categorize a network upgrade as important or very important to attaining their business objectives.
SMB leaders report that the top benefits of a new network include:
Better data security. Fifty-six percent of business and IT leaders in the Aruba survey cite enhanced security as a benefit of a modern network.
Threats are more frequent and sophisticated than ever, meaning company and customer data has never been at greater risk. With ransomware extortion tactics on the rise, an exposed server or an overlooked attack vector creates significant risk. A security breach can slow or halt your customer’s ability to purchase from your website, reach customer service, or get an order update. Even a small security problem with customer or company data can hurt your reputation.
Security problems — which can take hours or days to fix — also impact productivity and income. And, as your business grows, so do the potential threats with more data, devices, applications, and people on your network. A modern network helps control who can access what data and which applications to focus on to protect business critical functions. It can also conduct automated 24×7 assessments of the network to identify problems or even suspicious activity, meaning threats can be stopped before they impact your business. The Aruba survey also found one-third of respondents say an improved network will help with compliance.
“A better network can enhance the security of our company’s systems automatically, and that’s the big payoff.”
– Oregon-based head of IT, computer software firm (100+ employees)
Support for company growth. To succeed in a fast-paced and connected world, your company needs a network that evolves with you. Half of the survey respondents say that an improved network will support company growth. A lagging network holds back progress — whether it’s a customer experiencing slowdowns during a website visit, or an employee waiting for the network to respond when they’re collaborating, developing a new product, or helping a customer. Since access to the data, applications, and documents on your network fuels your company productivity, its scalability is vital to your growth plans. Business leaders know this: 40% say a network upgrade will improve access to important applications. An improved network can also make it easier to add devices and sites to the network as you need more access and coverage.
“The biggest business benefit of my company’s network is providing productivity for our employees and our customers.”
– Nevada-based principal, construction-industry company (100+ employees)
Increased employee productivity. Everyone on your team needs speedy and reliable access to data and applications from wherever they are working. And in today’s Internet of Things-powered world, all employees need to be able to add and use devices easily and quickly. To support collaboration between team members, a network must make it easy for employees to share documents and information. Close to 50% of survey respondents say that an improved network will enhance employee productivity. Roughly the same number want a faster network. One in three say that an improvement in network speed will make it easier to connect personal and professional devices. An improved network can also prevent traffic bottlenecks and automatically put priority devices on a high-speed status with strong coverage across indoor, outdoor, and remote locations.
“Our network allows the company’s employees to share data in different locations and communicate with each other so that projects go more smoothly.”
– Montana-based head of IT, computer services firm (500+ employees)
Improved customer experience. Competition for customers is fierce. A good experience for current customers — whether it’s online ordering, problem resolution, or high-speed Wi-Fi — is essential to keep them loyal. And potential customers will assess your business from the first contact, and based on the experience, determine whether they’ll buy from you or a competitor – or recommend you to a friend.
Close to 40% of SMB leaders say that an improved network helps improve customer experience. As expectations and priorities evolve, your business may need to offer new products or services or update the way you sell and support customers. Forty percent of survey respondents say that an improved network can enhance company competitiveness and enable the organization to deploy new features more easily.
“The most important benefits of a new network are speed of providing the required services to customers.”
– Georgia-based principal, construction company (500+ employees)
Cut costs. Keeping costs low supports competitiveness and growth, as it frees up resources to seize opportunities and maintain focus on business priorities. One-third of business and tech leaders in the Aruba survey cite cost-cutting as a benefit of a new network. With the current competitive hiring environment, especially for IT talent, a network that supports your company with a lean IT team is an important cost-containment tactic.
By re-prioritizing resources, you can reduce the cost of operating the network while improving IT staff productivity. Among the biggest pain points for company leaders right now, according to the Aruba survey, is ongoing IT support for the network and finding and keeping qualified IT and network staff. An improved network can both automate routine tasks, and ease the job of monitoring, maintaining, and upgrading a network.
“The biggest business benefit of our corporate network is to reduce our IT burden and increase our productivity.”
– Kentucky-based principal, retail company (100+ employees)
The Bottom Line
Businesses with ambitious plans need to operate efficiently using all available tools to stay competitive. When you can support employee collaboration, provide great customer experience, and keep your network available and fast-moving, your company goals are within reach.
See how Aruba can help you quickly find a new network to support your unique business needs.
1 Online survey of 150 business decision-makers and 150 IT decision-makers at U.S. companies with 100 to 999 full-time employees. The survey was fielded September 23- October 4, 2021.
Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.