It’s December, and as much as it’s a time for celebrations and gratitude it’s also a time for looking ahead to the start of the new year and making predictions about what’s to come. When year-end rolls around we don’t just resolve to do things different or better or more efficiently in the coming year, but we also have to think strategically about what changes are coming and how we can adapt, or even stay ahead of the curve. Relevance is everything in business, and failing to think at least a few steps ahead can be costly. When it comes to technology, the million dollar question is always, what’s next? It’s a tough question and can be a real challenge for businesses because no one wants to invest in technology that will be obsolete within a matter of months. And so we ask ourselves those questions. What’s the next iPhone or Facebook, will 2-in-1 devices ultimately replace all desktop PC’s and how big is the Internet of Things really going to be? Trying to imagine what will be the “next big thing” in 5 or 10 years is as fun as it is impossible though, because in an industry that moves at the speed of light there is just no way to answer that specifically – particularly when it’s entirely possible that the next big thing hasn’t even been dreamed up yet. But because “we just don’t know” isn’t super helpful for businesses trying to make budget and planning decisions, what we can do is consider where things are trending. And the good news is that looking back a few years and comparing the “then” with the “now” actually does give us some insight into the direction that we appear to be headed, even if we don’t know now exactly what apps or devices will be most popular. And the trend that seems to have gained the most traction is the idea of sharing and collaboration. In the global sense, you see this trend with the rise in popularity of services like Uber, Airbnb (stay in someone else’s house), Sailo (sail someone else’s boat), OpenAirplane (fly in someone else’s plane) and Spinlister (take a spin on someone else’s bike or snowboard), among others. Shared office space is now a common practice in business parks and office suites nationwide, allowing startups, micro-businesses and solo-preneurs to pool resources and share office and meeting space. You could even argue that print and copy centers were early adopters of this mindset, allowing customers to utilize print and copy services without having the buy or lease the machines themselves. Cars seem to be next on the list, with Google, Apple and Uber reportedly all working on plans for a scenario where you would simply order a car as needed as opposed to owning and maintaining one on your own. According to a recent Tech Crunch article on the topic, “The sharing system is far more efficient, as it enables resources to be active 24/7 rather than just when we’re personally using them. And because everything will be tailored to our needs and desires, we’ll still feel like what we’re using is ‘ours.’” Cloud services are another prime example of the sharing economy and the efficiency it offers. Perhaps the biggest benefit for businesses opting into cloud services is that in lieu of buying, housing and maintaining the equipment or pricey software license, you are buying into the resource and sharing space or paying a subscription fee based on the number of users instead of funding individual licenses. The resource is maintained and updated by the company that owns it. And they can offer space or subscriptions at a reasonable price because of the volume of users. In fact, using shared resources and collaborating has become so much of a part of our daily lives that it’s easy to have missed the fact that it happened. It certainly didn’t happen overnight, but thanks to the popularity of social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, we have all adjusted to the idea of taking part in a sharing economy. The convention that to use it we must own it has been replaced by a collaborative mindset that instead strives for efficiency, ease of use, and cost-effectiveness in all aspects, both personally and professionally. Office 365 is also a strong example of the sharing economy at its best. Instead of the old way of doing business — buying a physical server, housing it, maintaining it, and then replacing it once it aged out – Office 365 represents that modern, efficient solution. As a cloud-based service, it provides anytime and anywhere access to all the familiar Office products, as well as plenty of storage space. But it doesn’t require that large upfront investment of hardware (server) or expensive software licenses. With O365, it’s a subscription model so businesses pay per user and can easily scale up or down. Other examples of the sharing economy include free email services like Gmail or Yahoo; e-mail broadcasting programs like Constant Contact and ExactTarget; sales tools like Salesforce; survey tools like Survey Monkey and Zoomerang and mapping programs like Google Maps or Mapquest. Google Apps also provide similar services to Office 365. If you think about it, almost every single application you use today can be (or already is) a shared resource that lives “in the cloud” where you can access it and pay for it via your browser for a monthly fee or utility pricing. You don’t purchase and install software but instead access it via an Internet browser. Sharing and collaboration seem to be the new norm, and it’s a good thing for businesses as the sharing economy offers cost-savings and access to modern applications that are focused on providing solutions that meet the demands of today’s workplace. It’s a new day for resources, and the sharing economy has major upside, as long as businesses are willing to adapt to this new and more efficient approach. Before investing in major software purchases or expensive hardware, find out if there is a cloud-based option that is right for your business. Corsica Technologies will provide you with a FREE I.T. assessment and can work with you to determine what your technology needs are today and in the future.
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