You may be familiar with the catalogs or Web site of TigerDirect, the retailer that slugs it out with a host of Web sites offering discounted tech products to consumers. But you may not know that Systemax, the parent company of TigerDirect is Systemax, a 65-year old NYSE-listed global company that is seeing its commercial reseller business grow faster than any other segment of its business. According to Adam Shaffer, executive vice president of merchandising at Systemax, the company has over 500 outbound salespeople in 13 regions as well as technical leads to support over 100,000 customers.

Indeed, last month the company rented out an intimate little venue known as Miami Marlins Park to connect customers with many of tech's biggest vendors. The event, known as the TigerDirect Innovation IT Conference and Expo was hosted by Shark Tank's Kevin O'Leary. Prior to the event, Systemax's Shaffer shared what TigerDirect sees as four of the key IT issues for small business in 2015:

The cloud. Cloud computing has strong allure--affordable computing capability, storage and apps available on-demand and to everyone in an organization. Businesses buy only the capacity they need and receive dynamic updates with minimal installation hassle. However, the cloud also comes with many questions: What's the right cloud structure? Should we host off-premise? Should we host our own cloud? Should we invest in the infrastructure? How do we start off? In many cases, a cloud solution may be more affordable, but there are concerns about control and security. There can also be questions about migrating across competing ecosystems, such as Microsoft Office and Google apps.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). Since most individuals only want to accommodate one smartphone at a time, these devices ushered in the era of BYOD. Saying no to personal devices can be a productivity buster that can be tough to enforce. However, there are still many issues with which many small businesses are wrestling. These include making sure that a phone or tablet isn't an easy access point to disrupting the network while keeping employees data safe and separate. There can also be regulatory concerns in sectors such as financial and health.

Device crossover. Once, the roles of devices were clearly defined--the desktop for stationary productivity and more demanding processing tasks, laptops for mobile productivity, and smartphone for nomadic connectivity. However, the entrance of new operating systems such as iOS and Chrome OS as well as a slew of hybrids and convertibles from different companies have made choosing the right equipment a lot more difficult; this issue is of course conflated with that of BYOD. Small businesses can now tap into low-cost Chromebooks as well as Windows notebooks and even affordable two-in-ones that can work as a laptop or tablet.

Security management. It seems that every day we hear about data breaches at large companies such as Target, Home Depot, JP Morgan Chase and, most recently and infamously, Sony Pictures. The bread and butter of antivirus is still important, but even small businesses must be concerned with the integrity of customer data. There are myriad options in the marketplace that can help with this.

According to Shaffer, the key in determining the right solution is listening carefully to customer needs. The process begins with a phone call or Web site lead and evolves to account managers who act as quarterbacks to bring in the appropriate resources to service customers, including experts from many of their vendor partners. While there may be many questions around where small business IT will go in 2015, it seems clear that there are more choices than ever to best match a small business's needs.

Published on: Dec 26, 2014
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