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The cloud and small businesses

There is a lot of hype in the media regarding Cloud Computing. There are a number of self-proclaimed cloud experts, extolling the virtues and benefits of cloud computing to small businesses with every breath.  We'll briefly examine if any of these claims are true or merely part and parcel of over hyped technological solutions.

The Cloud as the Great Equalizer

If you closely examine the essential characteristics of cloud computing, particularly public cloud services, you will see why small organizations would be interested in basing part or even there whole IT infrastructure based on the cloud services. Cloud computing is turning out to be the weapon that can allow small and medium organizations to compete on a more level playing field against large enterprises.

Here are some cloud computing benefits that may just close the gap between the two.

[ebs_list] [ebs_li type="glyphicon-ok"]Significantly lower IT spending. With little to no investment at all on hardware infrastructure and practically zero maintenance costs, SMBs that would have required substantial capital for IT are now finding it easy to get a business started from scratch or develop and test out new products by using the cloud as the backbone of their IT set-up. The pay-as-you-go pricing scheme that cloud computing offers allows companies to start small and scale up as needed, or when the revenue starts coming in.[/ebs_li] [ebs_li type="glyphicon-ok"] Higher employee productivity. Licensing fees for software applications can run high even if you don’t have a large staff. Good thing there are now a host of cloud-based office tools – word processors, spreadsheets, presentations, accounting systems, etc. – that can boost employee productivity without the corresponding costs that small businesses can ill afford. Plus, team members in remote locations can continue to collaborate with the rest through any internet-connected device in real time.

[/ebs_li] [ebs_li type="glyphicon-ok"]Easier, better communication. The easy accessibility of communication apps has also changed the way employees interact with fellow employees and more importantly, with customers. Whether through email, instant messaging, or social networks, cloud services have given individuals and businesses more ways of giving and getting feedback. The best thing about it is that most of these services don’t cost much or are even free, giving SMBs ample tools to create better products and improve service.[/ebs_li] [/ebs_list]

In many cases it is a lot easier for small businesses to adopt cloud services quickly.  Many SaaS (Software as a Service)  providers  enable businesses to set up commonly required services such as Email,  Customer Relationship Managers, Collaboration tools, File Sharing and back up services within seconds.

In a February 2012 Edge Strategies survey (commissioned by Microsoft) of 3,000 small businesses in the US, the following data came to light:
[ebs_list] [ebs_li type="glyphicon-ok"]The number of small companies with 2 to 10 employees using paid cloud services will triple in the next three years;[/ebs_li] [ebs_li type="glyphicon-ok"]Current cloud users report purchasing an average of 4 services in the cloud now and expect to use 6 in the future;[/ebs_li] [ebs_li type="glyphicon-ok"]Fifty percent agree that cloud computing is going to become more important for businesses such as theirs.[/ebs_li] [/ebs_list] Further, a survey of 323 SMBs recently released by social business site Spiceworks and sponsored by EMC reveals that from 48 percent at the start of 2012 and 28 percent a year ago, 62 percent of the businesses surveyed now use some type of cloud app.

What these numbers show is that cloud adoption among small and medium enterprises is starting to gain ground and for sure, more will do the same as understanding and awareness increase. Yes, these businesses should still perform their due diligence as there is no one-size-fits-all cloud solution. But for those companies who have managed to find the right cloud apps and services for their needs, it’s all sunny skies up ahead.

Gary Woodfine
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