In 2021, the landscape was far from static regarding technology evolution.

These new technologies offer significant opportunities for small and medium businesses (SMBs) to grow and optimize their operations. They may also present new challenges to SMBs who must now adopt new technologies to keep pace with the competition or adapt to new cybersecurity risks.

Here are some of the trends to watch coming out of 2021:

Remote work is here to stay. While remote work emerged as a big trend in 2020 due to the pandemic, many companies found that employees preferred to stay home or adopt a hybrid work structure, even as many could open their doors once again. With that comes a shift to long-term remote work, including leveraging new cloud and as-a-service applications and other tools that can enable it for the long term. For an SMB, remote work can also be a way to cut costs on office space or attract employees who want that type of benefit.

Ransomware continues to rise. 2021 was a breakout year from ransomware, with attacks causing significant damage to businesses big and small. The Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack, for instance, halted nearly half of the fuel flowing to the East Coast for multiple days. Other attacks shuttered hospitals or food supply organizations, putting lives and supply chains at risk. According to the 2021 Verizon Data Breach Report, ransomware doubled in frequency during the year and accounted for 10 percent of attacks. Unfortunately, all indications point to this trend continuing in the years to come.

What can you automate? Automation shows up in more ways for every business — not just the most prominent businesses on the block. SMBs, for instance, can leverage automation for a wide variety of tasks, including increasing their marketing capabilities, searching networks for potential cybersecurity threats, analyzing data for trends or anomalies, and more. In doing this, SMBs can increase their efficiencies, cut costs and even enhance their overall capabilities.

Everything is connected. If we thought everything was connected before, it has only gotten more so in 2021. As technologies like 5G become mainstream, it stands to reason that connectivity will only continue to rise in 2022 and beyond.

Virtual and augmented reality. While virtual reality may have seemed like science fiction five years ago, it is very much a reality today. SMBs and other businesses can leverage virtual and augmented reality technology for marketing, training, gaming, healthcare solutions, and more. While they may not have evaluated these technologies in the past, it is worth evaluating if they can help grow their business.

These trends form the foundation for future growth areas in 2022 and beyond. SMBs looking to stay on the cutting edge should evaluate how each of these technology areas could impact their business and drive growth.