If the small or mid-size business you manage is among the nearly two-thirds of such U.S. enterprises that aren’t yet using cloud computing tools, you should begin seriously considering making that jump. If you don’t, by 2020, you’ll be at a distinct disadvantage to your competitors. That’s according to a new report from Emergent Research called “Small Business in the Cloud.” The report was sponsored by and done for Intuit.
Emergent surveyed 500 small business executives and discovered that only 37 percent consider themselves to be “completely or very confident” in cloud-based data management solutions. That’s means 63 percent are less than confident in the cloud. But a whole bunch of those skeptics will become convinced cloud converts by 2020, when Emergent predicts that about 80 percent of small and midsize businesses will be operating entirely or largely in cloud environments.
Understanding the cloud advantage
If Emergent is right, it means not only that those small and mid-size businesses are gaining an advantage over their cloudless competitors, but those who don’t become comfortable operating in the cloud will find themselves at a costly disadvantage in the marketplace.
Why is that, you ask? Well, there are several reasons.
1. Cost Savings — All small and mid-size businesses deal with financial and staff expertise limits. Instead of spending precious capital on building or buying programs, servers and other equipment, and employing and training staff to operate and maintain those technologies, businesses can essentially “rent” those programs from online providers. That means you pay only for the services and capacities you use now. You can easily scale up or down your usage of those services as needed, and that you can do those things quickly because it does not require huge outlays of capital or costly inefficiencies and/or write-offs.
2. Flexibility and efficiency — Many small business owners already use cloud-type services in their personal lives (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and even basic email). That gives them the ability to contact and interact with others from virtually anywhere at any time. Businesses operating in the cloud get the same ability. Managers and employees can be productive wherever they are because they can gain access to data and information via any connected device. Yes, your staff needs to be instructed – and monitored – in the proper way of accessing sensitive data and information from their laptops or whatever, especially in public places. But that’s a low barrier to overcome, especially in light of the great productivity and efficiency gains that can achieved, and the flexibility it gives managers and sales people to make decisions while on the move.
3. New opportunities — That increased efficiency and flexibility will, over time, enable entrepreneurs and small businesses to link up others on ad hoc projects or semi-permanent teams. Business theorists call this “hiving,” because of small businesses with aligned interests can create “communities” or virtual corporations capable of competing effectively against larger full-service companies. Mid-size businesses could do the same thing, but they’ll also discover that their increased productivity will allow them to expand their reach and the number of clients they can serve with existing staff. That translates into market share and revenue growth at little or no incremental cost.
Finding the right cloud solution
Recognizing the need to move your business to the cloud is one thing, while actually doing it is another. Must such companies lack the level of expertise needed to properly investigate the myriad of options and approaches they can take in getting to and efficiently exploiting the cloud and its advantages. Decisions will need to be made about what kind of cloud solutions – private, public or hybrid – that a company should employ? How will proprietary and customer data be protected? How do you migrate your company’s data from existing platforms to the cloud? How can you be certain that your data will be available 24/7, even after a data center outage? And, most importantly, how do you pick between the many cloud services vendors?
The wise owner will search out and find the right team of advisors who can bring not only technical expertise but also top-flight consulting and analytical skills to the table to help companies think through their existing processes. And for small and mid-size businesses, it’s also a great idea to select a team of advisors who are intimately familiar with the unique challenges faced by small and mid-size businesses, as opposed to advisors whose experience is mostly gained from working with large corporations.