Guest Blog: Very Cloudy SMB’s Future

Predictions say that majority of SMBs today are expected to move into the cloud by end of the 2014 and give up their in-house IT departments entirely.

A new survey in late 2013 by cloud service provider j2 Global revealed that among the surveyed – more than 1600 small business professionals – most have had some trouble giving up traditional technologies, but most were planning to do so by 2014.

SMBs are by no means new to the cloud. They have been using SaaS for quite some time in the popular email solutions, project management and CRMs.

But while these solutions save a lot of money and time, there are other, more efficient IaaS cloud services available today, specifically suited for the special needs of SMBs. These continue to provide the many benefits that the cloud in general offers to the small and medium sized business.

 Why The Cloud For SMB’s

1. Levels The Playing Field

One of the major advantages of the cloud has been that it is a great leveler. With the help of the cloud, SMBs are able to access computing and services that were once only available to large companies. More and more businesses are opting to rent infrastructure as required for their businesses.

2. Creates Savings

Another important reason why small businesses are moving to the cloud is because of the significant savings it offers. It is far more economical to buy cloud services for a few tens or hundreds of dollars as opposed to maintaining and periodically upgrading systems on the premises.

For instance, businesses also save space (and costs) associated with buying and maintaining landline phones and fax machines, when they simply switch to online fax and give up office landlines for mobile-based services.

Cloud services are also automatically upgraded by the service provider, leaving the business free to focus on more important functions such as customer service and business growth.

3. Improves Customer Connection Through The Cloud

The cloud has made it easier for businesses to connect with their audience, gain advantages in social media and improve their email marketing campaigns.

Mobile social apps, automation tools and email campaigns that encourage social media sharing can add to marketing advantages for SMB’s on the cloud.

4. Leverages Growing Familiarity With The Power Of The Cloud

Most businesses are motivated by cost when they switch to web based IT infrastructures, but a greater familiarity with cloud-based apps and devices is also a factor in the decision. With more and more people using tablets and smartphones on a regular basis today at home, they come to expect the same power of computing at their workplace as well.

5. Location Independence (everyone's favorite)

The cloud gives the small business workforce a flexibility to work anywhere and anytime. This can also enable businesses to attract talent from across the world and enhance the business efficiency and reduce costs (think outsourcing).

An Idea: Jump Straight Into IaaS

There are many categories of services provided within the cloud itself: SaaS, PaaS and IaaS.

1. Enterprise level equipment accessibility: One of the major benefits of IaaS is that no matter the budget that an SMB has for IT infrastructure, it can give them access to powerful, entry-level equipment as needed. In fact, some SMBs may not even have to invest capital resources for new hardware.

SMBs will be able to enhance performance without having to pay high overheads, and still be able to experience the benefits of enterprise level services.

For instance, rather than looking for a fast server to work with existing databases and web hosting, SMB’s can simply look for services that can work in an environment that is based on a distributed resource structure.

2. Pay As You Go schemes: SMBs can take advantage of the pay as you go schemes that IaaS can provide. This eliminates the need for computing power that is not necessary for the business, and at the same time allows for scalability as the business grows.

IaaS also helps to avoid the expense of technicians, as service providers take care of network issues and hardware that may crop up. Additionally, with sudden, unexpected business growth, upgrading your infrastructure is as easy as making a quick call to your provider.

3. Interoperability: This means that all aspects of the cloud – PaaS, SaaS and IaaS – can complement each other. If an SMB puts all of its infrastructure resources into the cloud, business platforms and applications can be often seamlessly integrated without interruptions and downtime opposed to traditional environment described bellow.

4. Cloud-based Data Centers: All IaaS models provide a web-based data center for your server needs, eliminating the need for in-house data centers that traditional IT infrastructures are associated with. IaaS services come with maintenance, monitoring and security, which is particularly beneficial for businesses that want to keep their confidential data secure.

This is also a huge money saver as businesses won’t be bothered with hiring expensive professional individuals and companies for managing their hardware/software stacks as it’s all been taken care of behind the curtain.

5. Limits Hardware Needs: IaaS offers far superior bandwidths than most broadband connections available to companies using traditional IT systems. All computing is done on the cloud-based data centers, leaving businesses free of the hassle of having to connect to high speed Internet on their premises.

Custom-Tailored For SMB Needs

When switching to the cloud, important fact (plenty of service providers are aware off now) to remember is that each business is different and may not fit the certain limitations in terms of predefined sets of services/plans companies are offering these days thus need for various custom solutions became a necessity.

Usually known as 'hybrid cloud solutions', or a system in which some resources are managed on the cloud while other resources are managed in-house. Many IaaS providers offer PaaS services and also allow businesses to install their own operating systems and development platforms.

Each company should take advantage of the many customizable opportunities on the cloud and find a balance that creates the best savings and performance.

But, Before The Jump..

As I mentioned that no small business is the same, same can be applied to cloud service providers. Luckily, there are plenty of reviews and information available on both major and local service providers so you can easily decide who will power your business and accommodate your growth.

#Protip: Go big.

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