By Jessica Larson, SoloprenuerJournal.com
Small businesses are searching for means to keep customers happy and profits flowing. For many, this has meant becoming more connected with customers at a time when we are supposed to remain at least six feet apart. Thankfully, technology continues to evolve alongside marketing and product changes, allowing us to do just that.
For this reason, MSPs are more important than ever to small businesses. Business owners who are worried about retention and marketing in an evolving environment are turning to trusted sources for the back-end services they need to leap into the new, digital world. With all of this in mind, here are the three tech services small business owners need – and a few tips that can help them fund the necessary upgrades.
Small businesses are often a prime target for cybercriminals. In fact, nearly half of all cyberattacks target small businesses. Although they harbor much precious data, small businesses don’t usually have robust security systems or on-site experts of larger corporations. That’s why, while 88% of small business owners know how vulnerable they are, they have no idea where to start when it comes to protecting their data or that of their clients.
That’s where the experts come in. MSPs can help small business owners without in-house resources assess their specific security needs. Some businesses, like law firms or health offices, will likely know they need high levels of security to comply with legal requirements. Others may have no idea what data they are even trying to protect. No matter which of these types of businesses you are, a cyber risk assessment can help you figure out where you stand and how far you need to go.
Of course, the next step is to address urgent issues and ensure long-term safety and compliance. Some businesses will need upgraded software and ongoing support. Others will need access to secure servers to store regulatory information. They will all want to know how best to assure their clients that their business can be trusted with their personal information.
Automatic Data Backup
More than 30% of companies have no data backup system in place, putting them at risk of losing valuable information in the event of a cyberattack, server corruption, or even an act of nature. While everyone has access to cloud storage, unless they have automation systems set up, many small businesses have likely outgrown manual backups.
From determining what should be archived versus backed up and optimizing storage to setting up automation and making sure it’s running, there are many moving parts to ensure important information is being saved in a way that is safe, efficient, and accessible in the event of an emergency. The alternatives – being forced to work from outdated data or recreate it entirely – is any small business owner’s worst nightmare.
Fortunately, there is a wide range of backup solutions available to meet the needs of every small business. Again, most small business owners don’t have the time or the knowledge to manage this task on their own, much less ensure they are investing in systems that can encrypt and verify data, integrate with other apps and across devices, and incorporate communications and inventory systems. MSPs can work with businesses to figure out the best data backup on a case-by-case basis.
Updated Point-Of-Sale System
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the nature of sales is changing. For small businesses, this will mean shifting their point of sale (POS) systems to keep up with the new normal. For example, cash is going away. By 2025, 75% of sales will be cashless.
When looking to upgrade or change their POS, small business owners should pay special attention to mobile applications. Even in brick-and-mortar stores, customers expect the ability to pay with their phones. With the rise of mobile wallets, touchless payments, and digital loyalty programs, purchasing is as much about convenience and rewards as it is about prices and availability. That’s why all eCommerce offerings, like home-to-store and BOPIS (buy online, pickup in-store) shopping, should be fully integrated into POS systems.
Integration of automated customer data into POS systems is also increasingly important. For small business owners, this up-to-date customer insight is crucial. With trending topics changing daily, updated data is as valuable as gold. This data informs everything from marketing drives to product launches. MSPs that can offer vertical security integration, data backup, and cutting-edge sales processing will attract more small business owners.
Ways To Pay
It’s no secret: upgrading business tech costs money, especially when it comes to data and security. But small businesses are often strapped for resources, leaving little to earmark for tech upgrades – even when they could lead to better security, more stability, or more revenue. That’s why it’s important to know what funding options are available to business owners who are ready and willing to make the shift but are concerned about the price tag.
Small Business Grants
Small business grants have long helped bridge the funding gap for small business owners who are ready to invest in their growth. Both private and government entities provide term-free funds for businesses to achieve their goals.
These days, that includes helping businesses modernize, making technological upgrades are a key focus of many grants. The demands of a younger consumer base are driving change, which includes green initiatives and shopping small. Rural businesses and those in impoverished areas of major cities are often eligible for grants designed to update their tech systems.
Grants are also accessible to historically underrepresented entrepreneurs. Specifically, people of color, women and people with disabilities are eligible for various minority small business grants. For instance, the Comcast RISE grant provides support to small businesses owned by a person of color. Businesses can use these funds for marketing, technology support, and more. Any MSP working with a minority business owner should be prepared to highlight grant funding, especially those intended to help achieve tech upgrades.
Small Business Loans
Another option to consider is a small business loan. The SBA provides government-backed loans designed specifically for small businesses. SBA loans, such as the Express loan, offer funds for cash flow. This can free up money for tech upgrades and other improvements. Likewise, the SBA 7(a) loan has federally backed rates and a long repayment term. As well, it will fund up to 80% of any business-related cost.
The SBA also offers microloans for startups. These loans are valued at up to $50,000 and are intended for growth and startup costs. While that amount isn’t enough to cover the yearly salary of an IT expert, these loans are great options for businesses looking to revitalize their tech systems with the help of an MSP.
As the pandemic has driven services further toward online shopping and digitalization, businesses of every size in every industry will be looking to upgrade their tech systems. Cybersecurity, data backups, and POS systems will be key areas of focus going forward. With that in mind, MSPs can position themselves in the mutually beneficial role of small business shepherds, leading the way to a better tech infrastructure.
About The Author
Jessica Larson is a married Midwestern mom and a solopreneur. She creates online courses for students, and she has started and run several other businesses over the years. Her goals are to support her family while still actually spending time with them, to act as an entrepreneurial role model for her two daughters, and to share what she has learned through The Solopreneur Journal.