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2016 is a year of new opportunities and challenges for small and medium businesses (SMBs). Whether you run a website or an e-commerce portal or simply manage an online business, it is a good idea to gear up for the challenges of this year in advance.
Fortunately, while the task is daunting, there is an entire world of useful tools, platforms and services that can immensely help in growing your business. The key is to understand the challenges well and then to use the right solution.
While the choice of available tools for CIOs, IT managers, publishers and other users at large is endless, let’s first have a run-down of the major and critical issues that businesses have faced in the past year.
2015 Security Breaches: The last year saw a vast number of critical security breaches affecting some of the biggest online businesses. A recent instance of this was seen when Twitter alerted its users that their accounts may have been compromised in a state-sponsored hacking attempt. According to a survey, 20% of Twitter users were alerted about this, which means that a huge number of actual users were potentially affected.
Even security big-wigs such as Kaspersky Lab had a number of its systems compromised in a cyber-attack. Obviously, security is one of the chief concerns this year for any business with an online presence.
Renewed Focus on Speed and Performance: The Internet is rapidly transitioning to a mobile phase. With the bulk of online traffic now coming from mobile devices, there has been increasingly greater focus on faster-loading websites that can perform well on all screen-sizes and devices.
Google has already enacted a mobile-friendly algorithm on mobile search results. Thanks to this, metrics such as page load speed, Time To First Byte (TTFB) and Round-Trip Time are becoming the key portions where business owners and site administrators need to focus. For traffic-intensive sites such as e-commerce portals, a noteworthy fact is that mobile-driven e-commerce traffic is already inching towards the 50% mark.
Downtime Means Business Losses: Online businesses suffering from security breaches and downtime caused by other factors have to pay a hefty price. It impacts employee productivity, tarnishes the image of the business and often leads to long-term and long-ranging revenue losses. One study estimates that for Fortune 500 companies, downtime of less than two hours a week costs more than $40 million per year to a single company. Of course, the figure is smaller for SMBs, yet it is still a very significant concern.
Start the Year Right With These IT Fixes
These substantial issues that have been a headache for SMBs and enterprises in the previous year will likely continue in 2016. What can you do about it? Read further to find out.
Improve Site Load Speed: Search engines, applications and devices are all hungry for content delivered at the speed of light. If you make money from online sales or conversions, speed can be the biggest factor that can determine success or failure. If you website performs poorly, people will leave without a second thought. It’s as simple as that.
Apart from optimizing your content, you can speed up delivery of content and media by deploying a content delivery network (CDN), which is essentially a technology that minimizes the physical distance between your visitors and the web server by caching content across different locations globally. Using CDNs can significantly improve site load speeds, and it comes with additional benefits that can optimize bandwidth and cost, as well as better protect your website from potential traffic surges.
Improve Site Security: Speaking of protection, your organization’s reputation also relies on the security of your web or IT infrastructure. A security breach can result in loss of trust, not to mention any material losses that your business may incur.
A recent development in network protocols is the introduction of http/2, the next-generation of the basic protocol that runs the web. Http/2 introduces packet multiplexing and compression, which helps improve performance and speed. Perhaps a more important benefit is that the protocol now requires encryption across all connections, ensuring end-to-end security. Today’s modern browsers should support http/2, although it’s taking a while for publishers and hosting providers to follow suit by deploying this by default.
Here too, using a CDN can help. Already, few CDNs support the new http/2 protocol and using those will auto-upgrade your website to support http/2 as well, at no extra cost.
Optimize for Mobile: Web traffic is expected to become decisively skewed in favor of mobile devices. So if you are aiming to gain more users, your best bet would be to make the site optimized for mobile devices. There are many ways of accomplishing this and a good place to start is Google’s comprehensive guide to developing mobile-friendly sites. If your site is mobile-friendly, it will rank higher in Google’s mobile searches, consequently raking in large traffic. If you fail to optimize the site for mobile, your search rankings will take a hit.
Automate: Nearly every business, big or small, has to deal with a huge amount of data from customer activities, operations, sales and more. Today, the concept of sales and marketing automation is more popular than ever, with a variety of tools and platforms that improve sales performance whilst minimizing the cost and human intervention involved. Social media plays a big part, especially with how platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have ingrained themselves into users’ daily lives.
2016 promises to bring many opportunities for businesses big and small alike. It’s up to entrepreneurs to establish a good strategy in achieving optimal growth and profitability through automation, infrastructure enhancements and a good focus on the trends at hand.