Mobile is magic for small business

With the increasing convenience and availability of mobile technology, small businesses are finding it easier to compete. The Small Business Mobility Report by CDW found that nearly all respondents -- 94% -- agreed that their use of mobile devices for work tasks has made them more efficient. This efficiency boost grants small businesses an opportunity to extend reach and increase productivity without emptying the piggy bank.

Mobility benefits are helping small businesses sidestep the obstacles and roadblocks of the past. Before the rampant onset of mobile devices, small business employees were only available to their customers and managers from their office desks. Thanks to the anytime, anywhere capabilities of mobile devices, small business employees are more efficient and more responsive. In CDW's report, 60% of small business mobile device users pointed to expanded communication and increased availability to customers as key benefits of mobility.

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Specific mobile tools are also giving small businesses greater opportunity to streamline business processes and even the playing field. Mobile business apps -- including email, calendar, GPS/navigation, document reading, social media and file storage apps -- enable small business employees to do more in less time. With 55% of smartphone and tablet users running work- related apps on their mobile devices, it is clear that business apps will continue to play a significant role as more small business employees go mobile.

Respondents also emphasized the necessity of mobiles devices to stay competitive in the market. Of those surveyed, 75% of mobile device users agreed that mobile devices are critical to their jobs, and 67% agreed that their company would lose competitive ground in today's market without mobile devices.

Practice makes perfect

While small businesses are quickly recognizing the benefits of mobile technology, like any new solution, mobility can present new management challenges. Only 51% of CDW's respondents said their company has an effective mobile device management (MDM) strategy -- and only 33% of IT managers surveyed were familiar with MDM solutions. In order to secure mobile devices and prevent data loss, IT managers need to understand -- and feel empowered to implement -- MDM solutions and protocols across the entire organization.

Small businesses must also be receptive to embracing new technologies that enhance the benefits of mobile devices, including business apps. While more than half of mobile device users surveyed are running work-related apps on their mobile devices, only 20% of respondents that use smartphones and tablets said that their companies offer proprietary business apps. Small businesses should examine the needs of employees to determine whether proprietary business apps could offer stronger benefits than the wide variety of apps an employee can download on a one-off basis on their own. If small businesses want employees to have a uniform mobile experience with pre-selected tools, proprietary business apps might be an option.

While it may take some time to perfect and implement MDM solutions or to fully understand how to make the most of business apps, most small businesses recognize the growing importance of mobile devices, from smartphones to tablets. In fact, CDW's report found that IT managers expect their employees' use of tablets to more than double in the next year. One thing is certain -- this evolving landscape provides small businesses with the perfect opportunity to do more work in real time, reaping the benefits of mobility and inching closer to larger competitors.

To learn more about CDW's Small Business Mobility Report, please visit: www.cdw.com/smallbusinessmobility.

CDW is a leading provider of technology solutions for business, government, education and healthcare. Ranked No. 31 on Forbes' list of America's Largest Private Companies and No. 270 on the FORTUNE 500, CDW was founded in 1984 and employs more than 6,800 coworkers. For the year ended December 31, 2012, the company generated net sales of more than $10.1 billion. For more information, visit www.CDW.com.

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This story, "Mobile is magic for small business" was originally published by NetworkWorld.

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