By Andrew Miller, Marketing Manager Dell SMB, UK & Ireland

The last few years have brought with them an explosion of new devices, web applications, and social media platforms. With every new product release or social network launch, business leaders are getting pressure from their employees, including senior executives, to open the company purse strings and integrate consumer devices and new web applications into everyday work practice.

The risks to data security are clear and very much real. Compared with the days when IT departments could pick and choose technologies for the workplace, the relative loss of control these devices spell for IT managers is daunting. The frequent requests to sync a director’s iPad to his work email for example, not only raises compatibility and security issues, but friction within the company if it can’t happen.

However there is no question that we are seeing an enormous shift in the way technology is consumed and how it’s used at work and in our daily lives. Today, working practices are highly variable: we respond to emails at all hours from smartphones, work from a variety of places and collaborate and exchange ideas via different platforms including social media. What’s more, many small businesses are starting as home-based or part-time ventures and we’re seeing greater flexible working patterns and expectations on connectivity inside and outside work.

Companies are developing new technologies everyday to cater for the different needs of workers, consumers and businesses – usually making them smaller and more powerful. The latest generations of ultrabooks, tablets and smartphones are a prime example as they are lighter, faster, ultraportable and more capable than their predecessors.

Earlier this year, Dell released its own ultrabook – the XPS 13 – which claimed a bundle of awards, including PC Pro’s coveted A list Recommended status. It combines powerful technology and enterprise-standard security protection, for entrepreneurs and business workers on-the-go.

In the summer we will see the launch of a new Intel chip, called Ivy Bridge, a faster, smaller, more energy efficient processor that will power a new generation of advanced solutions for businesses and multimedia professionals.

On top of this, in the autumn we’re gearing up for Windows 8, the newest Operating System (OS) from Microsoft which will combine all the best features of Windows, enhanced integration with online services, but more importantly it’ll be the “one OS to rule them all” across smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop PCs. The new release will no doubt strengthen Microsoft’s position at the top of the OS industry.

As young workers (25-34) settle into more senior roles - or start their own businesses, we can anticipate UK businesses allowing workers increased freedom through practices like flexible working and device choice, as that demographic will be the driving force behind adoption of new technologies in the workforce .

From our research with Intel earlier this year looking at the IT habits of European small businesses (100 employees or less), we discovered that IT spend is not dwindling, with over half of small businesses investing at least £10,000 and 32% saying it is critical for their companies.

Whatever the technology, businesses and entrepreneur’s a-like need to ask the all-important question before investing: how will it affect my business? The decision to implement any technology should be based on the current and future plans of your business. Choosing the right IT partner, investing in relevant technology for your business, and ensuring your most valuable assets are safe and accessible, is one of the smartest investments any small business will make.