Countries around the world are taking cautious steps to reopen their societies and economies as the repercussions of COVID-19 are just beginning to become clear. With the toll in Asia Pacific estimated at US$2.7 trillion in losses, companies need to brace for deep uncertainties ahead.

In the face of such a grim outlook, SMBs are seeking innovative ways to recover lost ground, sustain operations and thrive in the post-pandemic world. As the world inches forward with safe re-openings, an overarching theme can be seen across various sectors – from essential services such as healthcare, consumer goods and F&B, to stalwarts like communication and logistics: the increasing reliance on technology to bridge and enable capabilities that help brands meet customer needs.

Indeed, for smaller businesses, the challenge lies in overcoming the disruptions the pandemic has brought to traditional channels of in-person service and walk-in business like retail. So as to continue serving customers, generate revenue, preserve jobs and emerge from the pandemic poised to capitalize on opportunities.

However, with comparatively limited resources, SMBs face a more arduous task when choosing the right technology, software and services necessary for their business needs. Afterall, business owners can ill afford to waste precious time, effort and money on ineffective solutions or inappropriate tools.

New frontiers of work

One thing is certain – remote working and telecommuting will continue to feature, given the urgent need to maintain social distancing to keep the pandemic in check. However, cyber security and privacy remains a concern, often exacerbated by the complex nature of information technology.

Cisco understands that SMBs seek digital tools and technology that are easy to use, quick to implement, and cost effective. Achieving this trifecta is crucial in allowing COVID-19 embattled businesses to quickly recover lost ground, establish stability in this uncertain climate and sustain business operations.

In particular, Cisco has observed the following areas with increasing importance to SMBs as they adapt to the new normal.

Work from Home — Businesses are continuing to adopt telecommuting to keep employees safe, but this means staff and work teams remain separated by physical distance. A collaboration tool that is secure, reliable and easy to use is instrumental in allowing managers to facilitate meetings and foster connections online. That is why we’ve designed solutions that offer calling, messaging and meeting services in an all-inclusive subscription, with flexible monthly pricing, to best suit the needs of SMBs.

Cybercrime Protection — Despite the proliferation of multiple new channels of workplace communication, email remains a stalwart favourite due to its simplicity and utility. But email’s popularity is also the reason why hackers continue to target the service. In fact, email remains the number one threat vector for all businesses. With phishing attacks designed to gain illegal access now commonplace, SMBs cannot ignore the costly legal and financial implications of a privacy breach and would be well-served to ensure robust email security.

Always-On Business — Perhaps now more than ever, SMBs need a robust and secure IT network to move business activities online, so staff can keep up with client needs in real time. However, an improperly set up or unattended digital network is a serious liability, yet SMBs may struggle with high upkeep costs. Cisco has designed out-of-the box solutions built with ease of use in mind. Our IT solutions feature plug-and-play deployment – usable both in the cloud or on premise – with a simple yet powerful interface that allows easy monitoring, operation and troubleshooting.

Social Distancing – As scientists race to develop a vaccine, social distancing remains the number 1 strategy to keep COVID-19 at bay. This means that business owners need to know where people are, what they’re doing, and how close they are to each other. Cisco’s suite of smart surveillance and artificial intelligence cameras for workplace monitoring measures human density and alerts workplace personnel as needed, allowing SMBs to protect employees, guests, and customers and comply with regulations.

The office of the future — Many businesses will be carefully considering their office footprints as they navigate the uncertainties that lie ahead. With COVID-19 unlike anything we’ve ever seen, SMBs may face greater fluidity in manpower as governments work out the best way forward. To engender the greatest chance of success, we’ve built our network switches to provide a high degree of flexibility. They are easy to set up and offer advanced security for seamless connectivity between in-office and remote workforces alike.

There is opportunity amidst crisis, perhaps even better ones

Small businesses that were not tech-ready before the sudden turn of events were caught out when they had to equip their workers to work from home, practically overnight. They stand to benefit from tapping on tech solutions that help drive productivity, reduce costs, and reducing time-consuming administration and automate tasks instead to make way for higher value work, increase empowerment and improve performance.

Large or small, today, all companies need to rehaul their view, and better plan for business continuity and resilience. It is not too late to look towards technology solutions as businesses learn from current disruptions.

Challenges posed by Covid’s curveball have sharpened the need for businesses to adapt to new ways of doing things that worked well before. The reality is, customer needs have changed and so have the way we conduct business. In order to stay successful, SMBs must now evaluate whether their current digital capabilities are secure, flexible and mostly, adapted to continue competing in this tumultuous new world.