IT Pro is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

What does digital transformation mean for SMEs?

Every business needs to constantly evaluate how it’s deploying technology – including SMEs

Finger pointing at icons representing digital transformation

Digital transformation has been a long-standing buzzword for IT departments and businesses. It can mean different things to different companies, but the events of the last 12 months have seen a sudden reevaluation and acceleration of plans for many. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent national lockdowns have prompted a surge in remote working and organisations migrating to digital platforms to keep themselves moving. With this in mind, it’s now more important than ever for businesses to be deploying technology to help them grow.

Today, in the age of Industry 4.0, technology like AI, 5G and edge computing (computing that's executed near to the source of the data, and not relying on the cloud or data centres), are enabling greater speeds and connectivity, powering everything from autonomous vehicles to smart cities. However, this technology doesn’t have to be confined to just large-scale projects or the enterprise. Every business should be thinking about how it uses new tech to change how it works for the better. But how exactly can digital transformation be used across SMEs to gain a competitive edge?

Trends for SMEs

One of the major drivers of change over the past few years has been the shift to new working models. Even before the pandemic, organisations were moving towards flexible or remote working. Where larger companies can have trouble turning around established ways of operating, smaller firms have the benefit of being more agile and able to embrace change.

Though COVID-19 has led to distributed workforces, once the pandemic subsides it’s the companies that adopt these flexible working policies on a more permanent basis who’ll prosper. SMEs that modernise and shift to a more dynamic approach will attract a wider pool of talent, and likely retain them if they demonstrate a forward-thinking approach to work. Businesses can also make cost savings on things like physical premises and see a productivity boost as staff strike a better balance between work and their own time.

Artificial intelligence is another area that SMEs can leverage to enable growth. Implementing AI solutions can help to streamline and speed up tasks for various business applications and, for any outward-facing business, it can be vital in creating a better customer experience. From chatbots to product personalisation, AI can crunch through data and help identify consumer behaviour patterns and respond to the needs of buyers. It can also help SMEs get much more value out of the data they already have, combing through platforms like Google Analytics and content management systems to pull out actionable insights from large amounts of data.

Developing a robust cybersecurity strategy should also be a vital part of an SME’s digital transformation plans. Hackers are becoming more sophisticated, finding new ways to exploit vulnerabilities. Though a cyber attack on a small or medium enterprise is unlikely to hit the headlines, the threat shouldn’t be ignored. The COVID-19 pandemic has given cyber criminals a fresh landscape to execute attacks and scams. According to figures released from Interpol, in the first four months of 2020 some 907,000 spam messages, 737 incidents related to malware and 48,000 malicious URLs (all baiting with COVID-19-related messaging) were detected. It’s therefore critical that businesses put in place a plan to protect themselves and ensure customer data is secure and privacy is upheld.

Data storage solutions

No matter where digital transformation trends go for SMEs, it’s clear that data is going to sit at the very heart of it. How we use data, store, access and keep it secure will continue to power the way we work. According to recent estimates, by the year 2025 we will have generated a total of 175 zettabytes of data – a tenfold increase from 2016.

How should an SME approach its storage solutions? While many businesses will see the cloud as a fast and easy way to address storage and backup, as data requirements increase, high-capacity cloud storage can get expensive very quickly. A blend of cloud provider and physical storage devices is perhaps the best way to satisfy storage and backup demands. But where should you look to take care of the latter?

Related Resource

Seven steps to successful digital innovation and transformation

What to invest in and what to avoid when pursuing digital transformation

Seven steps to successful digital transformation - whitepaper from IBMWatch now

Synology specialises in NAS devices suitable for a range of business requirements. For SMEs, models in its Plus series and XS+ series take care of the entry-level requirements of a NAS. Should your business scale up quickly, the SA Series offers enterprise-grade storage for performance and reliability. Synology devices come armed with the DiskStation Manager operating system, which comes with security advisor functions and Synology Drive, a feature allowing you to set up your own private cloud. Synology NAS devices also boast AES 256-bit military grade encryption technology to store your data in a format protected by an encryption key, so even if the device is stolen and the disks removed, the data on those volumes won’t be accessible.

For AQSO, an architecture firm with locations in Madrid, London and Beijing, Synology provided a reliable digital transformation solution. Not only did AQSO require a way to store and transfer information between these offices, it also needed a dependable and cost-effective system that each team member could access on the go.

Initially rolling out Synology devices in Spain and China, AQSO soon extended the network with backup units and extra hardware for its satellite offices. Being able to synchronise files across offices meant that team members could connect to their closest servers on laptop, tablet or smartphone to work remotely and share critical information with consultants and clients.

Digital transformation is a journey not a destination, but SMEs can make the ride smoother by partnering with vendors like Synology. By choosing the right storage solutions, you can ensure you’re armed with technology to help your business grow.

Learn more about Synology devices and how they can help your SME

Featured Resources

IT best practices for accelerating the journey to carbon neutrality

Considerations and pragmatic solutions for IT executives driving sustainable IT

Free Download

The Total Economic Impact™ of IBM Spectrum Virtualize

Cost savings and business benefits enabled by storage built with IBMSpectrum Virtualize

Free download

Using application migration and modernisation to supercharge business agility and resiliency

Modernisation can propel your digital transformation to the next generation

Free Download

The strategic CFO

Why finance transformation propels business value

Free Download

Most Popular

The big PSTN switch off: What’s happening between now and 2025?

The big PSTN switch off: What’s happening between now and 2025?

13 Mar 2023
Why Amazon is cutting staff from AWS

Why Amazon is cutting staff from AWS

21 Mar 2023
Why – and how – IP can be the hero in your digital transformation success story

Why – and how – IP can be the hero in your digital transformation success story

6 Mar 2023