By Neil Bramley, B2B Sales Director Northern Europe, Toshiba

As the economy continues to recover across Europe, many small businesses are experiencing significant growth. A key consideration during this period of expansion is making sure that businesses invest in the right hardware, services and software to enable staff to work efficiently, regardless of whether they’re office-based or on the move.

Due to their size, SMBs face a variety of challenges relating to factors such as cost, security and reliability which may differ to those faced by consumers. The consequences for SMBs can also be far bigger, for example a data leak could cause considerable reputational and financial damage. It is for this reason that consumer-grade IT equipment is not the optimum fit for SMBs. By using tailored, targeted business devices, small businesses will not only have access to more reliable solutions and enhanced security which will minimise downtime, but they will also be able to maximise their productivity.

A key factor of successful mobile working is reliable connectivity. The Agile Future Forum (AFF) has published a report urging employers to allow flexible hours and working from home as agile working can create a range of economic benefits as well as being cost effective and increasing productivity. Through mobile working, SMBs can run their businesses as efficiently as possible, regardless of their location. High speed connections for uploading content, sharing data and hosting applications are critical for day-to-day business operations. This is why cloud-based services have become a firm favourite with SMBs – particularly as no capital investment is required. These additions give employees the flexibility to work wherever and whenever they want, with limited risk of downtime, which is obviously essential for SMBs.

As people become more dependent on their devices and spend the vast majority of their working lives online, the amount of confidential material stored on smartphones, laptops and tablets is also on the rise. Data is the most valuable asset for the majority of businesses today and strong security measures are essential for protecting it. Buyers should therefore be considering products that have advanced security measures built in, such as tamper-proof BIOS passwords which protect systems from unauthorised access. This level of security is not required for traditional consumer laptop use, however these features can give business owners peace-of-mind that their business data are devices are sufficiently secured.

Warranties on SMB products will also provide improved levels of cover compared to consumer offerings. Business laptops will also have added extras such as impact sensors, which protect devices if they are dropped, to help guarantee work is kept safe, regardless of whether employees are in the office, or on the move. Unauthorised access can be prevented by making sure authentication protocols are implemented, especially for those making the most of cloud technologies.

Gartner predicts that the global SMB market opportunity will exceed $1trillion by 2016. For European small businesses to capitalise on this opportunity, they need to equip themselves with the right IT solutions to ensure they’re in a strong and competitive position. If SMBs try to achieve this goal while still using consumer-grade hardware that can’t support business software or cloud services, rather than products that are designed to minimise downtime while enhancing productivity and reliability, they may find themselves on the back foot in an increasingly competitive market.