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SMEs are relevant to many aspects of our everyday lives and form the backbone of South Africa's economy. Their variety is immense, from fast-moving, digital-first start-ups, through to more traditional, strictly analogue high street businesses that have yet to acquire the skills to benefit from the latest digital innovations. However, especially for those SMEs that have yet to digitise, they are more significantly challenged by Covid-19 than larger businesses.
Avoiding a new digital divide
It goes without saying that many SMEs are facing significant reductions in customer demand and disruption to their supply chain as a result of Covid-19. These impacts threaten to diminish the scope for SME economic recovery, particularly when compared to larger businesses. Even before the crisis, larger businesses had an advantage over SMEs in progress on digitalisation and digital innovation. However, Covid-19 has highlighted divisions between SMEs at different levels of digital readiness. More digitally advanced firms have been better placed to adjust and emerge stronger from the crisis. But it is more than just providing SMEs with a ‘technology solution’. It is also about improving the digital capabilities of SMEs and creating new ways of working. Increased access to information and more productive and integrated digital processes also helps foster innovation.
The digital benefits
Some might feel they have no reason to go this digital yet, but that is not true. The advantages of digital systems are fast overshadowing the status quo. Here are several examples of popular digital services and how they apply:
- Online email and calendars
There is something to be said for the comfort of habits. Once we find something that we feel works, we are very reluctant to change. This is the only plausible explanation why more businesses are not using online email services such as Office365 and G Suite. Aren’t they tired of painful backups, losing emails, useless searches and not being sure where or if they replied to an email? Cloud-based email is accessible on any device with a modern browser or the relevant apps. This includes calendars, as well as powerful collaboration channels such as project chat areas. Since you pay per user, managing costs are easy - and these services are very inexpensive as is.
- Online content creation
Desktop word processors are no longer where the action is. Today it is very easy and fast to write a document online, then share it with others to collaborate or download to share with contacts. This functionality includes spreadsheets and creating presentations. But perhaps the best reason to move to an online word processor is that the documents are stored in a central place where those with the right permissions can reach it. Ever been in a meeting and not have a crucial document in front of you? If it’s stored in a digital cloud service, you can quickly call it up. Even if your office machine stops working, you wouldn’t lose any work. Nor does this come at a big cost, in fact, online word processing suites are often included in the previously-mentioned email suites.
- Backup and file storage
The previous digital service will keep many of your documents safe. But every business has a lot of extra data that it should store safely: customer records, captured receipts, contact lists and many other files that, if you lost them, could really damage a business. These can be backed up on a hard drive, but then what? How will you search that archive? Do you have time to manage all those drives to know what is where? And what if the drives themselves are damaged or lost? Online digital backup services from Vodacom are very affordable and automated ways to keep your business data secure.
A major fear around digital services is security: what if someone hacks you? Well, the bad news is that if you have computers and are connected to the Internet, you are hackable. In fact, if you are an SME, you are a prime target for cybercriminals. They know SMEs are usually underinvested in security, including training for their staff. Before you know it, a ransomware infection locks down all your machines. This is one reason to want online backups as mentioned previously. Digital cloud services are by their nature more secure. They spend a lot more on security and hiring the right people. They stake their reputations on being safe and difficult for attackers to breach. If you have sensitive and critical information you want to keep secure, digital cloud services offer far more without ruining your budget.
Vodacom Business is here to help take your business to the next level. We offer a wide range of products and services to fulfil the telecommunications needs of organisations of all sizes. From mobiles and fixed-line connections to a wealth of broadband and networking solutions, you can count on us to keep you confidently connected.