MWBEs have a Financial Friend in ‘the cloud’ whose Influence Expands Daily
Business mobile phones were once the size of bricks … all the way back in the early 1990’s. The concept of a phone that could also serve as a portable personal computer would have been dismissed as impossible. Now that smart phones and cloud computing are mainstream realities, minority and women-owned businesses (MWBEs) have to figure out how to make the most of them.
The options seem to be endless, and there is no doubt that access to new cloud technology and smart phone applications is changing the way MWBEs use their mobile devices for business. However, by focusing on the key financial benefits of new smart phone functionality for the unique needs of each MWBE, it is possible to make the most of new trends. In particular, minority business owners need to choose their operating platform, leverage cost-saving features, and be mindful of ongoing trends to optimize the best of the new mobile world.
Apple vs. Everybody Else
A first decision in the mobile computing game is: which platform will be the foundational system for the organization? At the moment, a significant battle is being waged in the mobile space between Apple and other smart phone providers, notably Android. MWBEs care mainly because the functionality between Apple’s iOS and open source platforms like Android is very different.
There is no doubt that Apple is the slicker and the more iconic platform at the moment. It has a bigger store of potential applications, and iOS has an intuitive navigation system that makes it easy for MWBEs without deep tech backgrounds to quickly find the programs they need. The FaceTime instant conference software and Siri virtual assistant application are prime examples of the elegant and cost-saving tools that iOS puts at immediate disposal. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, Apple is a more expensive choice than its competition and the rules for entry to its platform keep many fresh business applications locked out.
Instead, MWBEs looking for a functional, inexpensive gateway to cloud computing would, in many cases, be better served by an Android model. Android stores offer less expensive apps, and the open source model is more welcoming to new developers of business tools. The share of mobile computing for Android platforms rose from 17 percent to over 40 percent of the global market from 2010 to the middle of 2011, a sign that businesses favor versatility and low cost. For MWBEs that value being on the cutting edge and emphasize function over style, Android models are a better choice.
Once a platform for access is chosen, the next step is to maximize the cost-saving features of using smart phones for business. A key element in this is recognizing all the things a web-enabled and cloud-synced device can do so that redundancies can be stripped out of operating costs.
Smart phones offer far more than just talking or texting. They can serve as GPS devices for drivers, real-time links to business databases, on-the-spot scanners for inventory checks, and much more. Taking the time to train employees on all the things their phones can do allows MWBE firms to instantly be at the same level as the leading big-name players globally for a minimal investment.
The cloud is a strong driver for levelling the playing field. Thanks to cloud systems, MWBEs can focus on their unique needs and then search for cost-saving tools. Apps specific to the business can also be custom-built for a few thousand dollars, allowing for tools like bid-generation templates, customer profile databases, and instant expense forms to be available at the touch of an icon.
Ease of Use vs. Security Risks
Naturally, the convenience of smart phones for business tools brings along new security risks. Chief among them are the risks of hacking, cloning, and theft. Many companies have held off on smart phone and cloud investments because of these risks, but they can be overcome.
For hacking, the old rules apply. Phones and key applications need to be password protected, and those passwords should be both complex and regularly updated. Partial and full-blown encryption applications are available to protect data systems from eyes that make it past the first layer. Establishing layers of security in file transmission and requiring multiple layers of log-ins for key business applications truly does provide a great deal of protection.
Cloning risks require a different approach, especially as the resurgence of this mid-90s phone theft technique has surprised many security providers. Essentially, cloning duplicates a phone’s user subscription based on its broadcast signal. While anti-virus systems from McAfee and others can help, monitoring bills and data usage records weekly for unusual charges is the approach recommended by the Better Business Bureau, since cloning is essentially identity theft.
In terms of theft, businesses have less to worry about than ever. While the loss of the device is a cost, cloud-syncing phones ensures no data is lost. Remote disabling of the device can be implemented as soon as a theft is reported. With a click back at headquarters, the device is no more than a pile of parts. Applications to do this are inexpensive and well-worth the investment for peace of mind and data loss control.
Trends In Mobile Computing
As MWBEs consider more investment in cloud computing to keep up with the evolving world around them, the emerging trends in mobile computing should be kept front and center. This means accepting that interconnections are growing, privacy is shrinking, and functionality is trumping style.
For both hardware and software, interconnectedness is the name of the game. The old firewalls and system separations are fading away. As a result, whatever device is being considered needs to be compatible with the maximum number possible of currently existing platforms and tools to prolong the life of the investment.
Privacy is also disappearing in business applications. Advocates of transparency in business cheer this, but MWBEs that depend on proprietary formulas or data sets will find this to be an expanding issue over the course of the next decade. MWBEs that deal with sensitive customer data will also have to work harder to protect personally identifying data points. This is an especially thorny challenge as consumers themselves seem increasingly willing to trade their personal data for easy access to systems despite publicly demanding more data protection.
The final trend to keep in mind when investing in new mobile software and hardware is that functionality is winning out over style. Pretty is as pretty does, and when pretty can’t live up to its hype, more basic but better performing devices are winning. Android’s dramatic success as a platform is a testimony to this trend, as is the abandonment of Flash for mobile applications. Choose devices that can do more over devices that are “cool” when making business investments.
While the options for mobile computing expand daily, the key point for MWBEs is the way this platform can eliminate duplicate operating expenses and level the playing field. By focusing in on the functional tools and the unique needs of the business, owners can wade through the noise in the space to identify the most useful applications without living in fear of security risks. As a result, MWBEs will be able to optimize the newest technology features to save money and be more competitive in their markets.