Top 10 Small Business Tech Predictions for 2012

From more affordable virtualization to cloud everything to gigabit wireless to NAS appliances, small businesses have a lot to watch for in 2012. To help you plan for the year ahead, check our picks for top tech trends of 2012 -- all cast with the needs of small businesses in mind.

By Paul Mah
Tue, December 20, 2011

CIO — For small and midsize businesses, 2011 was an eventful year for the owners and managers tasked with technology decisions. The year's highlights range from the arrival of new technologies such as the introduction of Intel's Thunderbolt peripheral interface to the release of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

But it wasn't all highlights. Beyond the promising new products and technologies, you saw many tech titans at their worst: RIM stumbled big-time in October with the most severe service outage in its history while Sony saw its Playstation Network so badly hacked it took more than a month to fix.

As 2011 draws to a close, it's time to look ahead to 2012. Namely, what can small and mid-sized businesses (SMB) expect to see in the next 12 months? The 10 technological trends listed below will affect businesses of all sizes in the coming year, but they promise to have a particular impact on small and mid-size businesses in 2012.

1. Microsoft Hyper-V3 Means Cheaper, More Powerful Virtualization

Microsoft looks set to single-handedly up the ante on the virtualization front with the release of Windows Server 8, which will incorporate a seriously beefed-up hypervisor. Hyper-V 3 will come with substantial improvements in the areas of network, storage, scalability and live migration capability. Its significance for SMBs and SMEs that have yet to deploy virtualization is substantial, allowing them to create a full-fledged virtualization setup with minimum capital outlay with regards to software licensing fees.

Hyper-V 3 will exert significant pressure on market leader VMware by delivering "good enough" virtualization at a fraction of the cost of a full vSphere implementation. More importantly, Hyper-V 3 will recast the capabilities that businesses expect in a free virtualization product. Expect cheaper, more powerful virtualization to materialize as virtualization vendors react with price cuts and more advanced capabilities at lower (or free) price points. No date has been announced for Windows Server 8 at the time of writing, though it's anticipated to debut in 2012.

2. More Network Attached Storage Appliances

Network Attached Storage (NAS) appliances have been growing progressively more powerful over the years, narrowing the gap with entry-level SANs. Indeed, many new NAS products released today are certified for virtualization platforms such as VMware, Hyper-V and Citrix, with more advanced models capable of replication between NAS or even supporting cloud storage such as Amazon's Simple Storage Service as an additional tier of data backup.

Expect this trend of powerful NAS to continue and even accelerate in 2012. For SMBs, mid- to high-end NAS models have attained a sufficient level of performance and features to effectively serve as the primary storage for smaller businesses, or in branch offices of larger organizations. As such, small business and enterprise will deploy more NAS in 2012, and possibly even using them as SAN-replacements in certain cases.

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