5 business tech resolutions for 2012

You can scramble to keep up with technology, or you can use technology to give your business a strategic advantage over your rivals.

With the holidays behind us -- or at least winding down -- depending on what you celebrate, time is ticking away on the last few days of 2011. As you bag up the shredded wrapping paper, and start taking down your decorations, take a moment to ponder the year ahead as well.

Virtually all business rely on technology to some extent. The difference between businesses that succeed, and those that fail lies in which ones let the technology dictate limitations, or get in the way of business, and which ones recognize the value of technology and use it as the strategic advantage that it is.

Here are five tech resolutions to consider for your business for 2012.

1. Embrace the Cloud The "cloud" is a ridiculously over-used buzzword. The "Internet", and services that run from the it pre-date the "cloud" revolution. But, behind all the marketing hype, there really is something of value there. Take advantage of cloud-based servers, applications, and services for your business. The cloud lets you expand quickly, and cost-effectively. It also enables your business to compete with much larger companies, while leaving the maintenance and upkeep of the backend infrastructure in the hands of the cloud service provider.

2. Virtualize Virtualization goes hand in hand with embracing the cloud. The "servers" you implement in the cloud are most likely virtual servers, running in parallel with many other virtual servers on a single physical server in a data center somewhere. Whether you implement your servers in the cloud, or in-house on your own hardware, virtual servers are cheaper and more efficient than physical servers. You can implement new servers as needed without investing in additional server or network hardware, and by running multiple virtual servers on a single physical box you can make sure you are fully utilizing the processor and memory resources you paid for.

3. Let Them Bring Their Own Technology I'm not sure if you got the memo, but there has been a transformation in technology over the last few years - BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology). Instead of companies dictating which laptops, smartphones, or other devices workers should use, individuals are simply bringing their own technology to work. The initial response by many organizations is to resist the trend. It takes away the relative uniformity, and seems to create chaos when it comes to managing and supporting the environment. However, these are devices that your workers are investing in whether you allow them or not. You can eliminate unnecessary costs for your business by simply inviting workers to use the devices they already own. You could also subsidize split the costs -- a win-win. Aside from cost, BYOT can also boost productivity. These are the platforms and technologies they feel most comfortable with, which is why they invested their own hard-earned money in them. Letting them use them at work rather than forcing them to use something they don't like will make happier, more productive users.

4. Secure Mobile Devices Of course, if you let everyone bring their own laptops, smartphones, and tablets in to work, or connect remotely to company servers and resources, you also need some way to enforce basic security policies, and protect any company data those gadgets might contain. There are cross-platform mobile security tools available to help monitor and maintain security across diverse gadgets and devices. At the very least, you should have a written policy defining basic security requirements. You should also make sure your workers understand the security controls available on the devices they use, and that they take advantage of the protection they already have.

5. Protect Your Data Data breaches seem like a daily occurrence. While some are complex, precision attacks, most are crimes of opportunity. Actually, the reality is that human error and negligence are much more to blame for putting sensitive data at risk than any outside attackers. You should have tools in place on your network that monitor outbound communications to prevent confidential or sensitive data from being leaked -- whether intentional or inadvertent. If nothing else, you need to ensure that all of your sensitive data is encrypted so that it is protected from unauthorized access even if the laptop, smartphone, or tablet it is housed on ends up lost or stolen.

Time is like an arrow that has already been launched from the bow. It is going to travel forward -- rapidly -- toward somewhere. It is up to you to decide if that somewhere is just a random destination the arrow happened to be pointed toward, or if the arrow is aimed at a target -- a goal that improves and grows your business for 2012.

This story, "5 business tech resolutions for 2012" was originally published by PCWorld.

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