The role of data within an SME

The role of data within an SME

The importance of data doesn’t just apply to large companies and is equally beneficial to SMEs. Despite their size, SMEs produce a significant amount of data. Uwe Kemmer, Director of EMEAI Field Engineering at Western Digital, explains how data can be used for insights in different industries and the benefits of different storage solutions.

In the UK, there are over 5,000,000 registered businesses, with 500,000 more expected to be registered each year. Of this, 99.2% are classified as small businesses, employing 50 staff members or less. Despite their small size, these businesses can produce significant amounts of data needed to help them gain insights, increase earnings or improve the customer experience. However, one aspect that is consistent is the need for tailored and reliable storage solutions which meet the needs of both the business’ structure and its goals.

When considering the current pace of business and data growth, it is essential that small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) have the right data storage infrastructure in place, which meets their specific needs. There are many factors to consider including storage capacity, workload, performance, form factor, application and system requirements and overall total cost of ownership (TCO). Choosing the right data storage allows SMEs to capitalise on the explosion of data for better business insights and operational improvements.

Growing data within a growing business

With recent advancements, data insights have created new opportunities and efficiencies for SMEs. This includes the development of new products, enabling dynamic pricing and fuelling tailored product or service recommendations. This is demonstrated in modern business infrastructures such as storefronts, offices, factories and distribution centres, for example, most of which now rely on new technology innovations such as Machine Learning, AI, automation, hyper-personalisation, smart shelves and more. These produce huge amounts of data that must be recorded and analysed to optimise retailer operations.
It is not just technologies integrated into businesses that can increase the need for data and insights.

ith social media platforms moving further towards video content, this creates even greater demands for data storage. Small businesses utilising the video capabilities of social media to engage new audiences and to promote themselves also adds to this demand. Depending on the resolution and quality of the content, recent research has revealed that video streaming can take up to 15.98GB per hour in 4K.

Additionally, with retail businesses, other important data includes customer details and buying behaviours. This data is necessary for marketing purposes like email communications needed to drive traffic to stores or targeted advertising campaigns. In recent years, this has become even more advanced, as algorithms are used to ensure that targeted campaigns are directed to the most relevant audiences, utilising personalised advertisements to the maximum to further drive commerce.

Ultimately, the analysis of customer data can lead to further data being created as insights. As a result, these can be implemented and developed into marketing and sales strategies. Making understanding the mechanics of how data can be managed and leveraged for businesses, beyond growth in revenue, a necessity. Therefore, having the right storage architecture in place has become increasingly important, especially as ongoing rapid technological development means that the data deluge shows.

How to overcome data challenges

Although data can play an important role in helping an SME become more successful, if this data is not stored onto a suitable storage solution, it could potentially be a huge business loss. Storage technology has come a long way, and there are now a multitude of effective and easy to use backup solutions available. Portable drives, for example, are highly effective where users can backup laptop data prior to or during a business trip to provide added protection in the event that equipment is lost or damaged.

Other popular solutions that data can be stored and protected on, include cloud storage, servers and local external storage solutions. However, experts recommend using more than one form of backup and storing them in multiple locations. There is a simple rule of thumb to ensure that backups are done optimally: have three copies of data saved on two different types of media and one backup should be kept off-site in case of disaster. In doing so, this ensures the data remains safe in the event of theft or other unexpected events. According to a 2022 report by the UK Government, 24% of UK businesses use both standalone devices and cloud providers, either public or private, to store their data.

An on-premises or on-site option that can be implemented by many small businesses is a network-attached storage (NAS) system. A great advantage of NAS is that data is stored centrally, which enables its backup and protection while allowing remote access and sharing at the same time. NAS systems facilitate an environment of work and collaboration. By choosing from a variety of Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) levels, NAS solutions can be easily optimised to meet an organisation’s particular needs and offer the best performance, data protection and capacity. With this, it allows SMEs to save and share their files from anywhere, at any time. As long as there is an Internet connection, team members can manage their files all in one place to help make their workflows more productive and efficient.

Data plays an increasingly vital role in business development, regardless of its sector or function, ranging from informed choices, predicting trends and discovering new opportunities for growth and success throughout the business lifecycle. It is, therefore, critical for SMEs to have the right storage solutions in place to be able to truly understand available data and act accordingly.

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