In recent years, there has been acceleration in the adoption of cloud-based services in the small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) sector allowing SMBs to not only enhance their IT capabilities but to also access reliable, cost-effective, and scalable IT infrastructure resources.
According to a Microsoft® survey conducted by Edge Strategies last year, 50% of SMBs say cloud-based services are going to become more important for their operations, and 58% believe working in the cloud can make companies more competitive. There are several reasons why SMBs are using cloud services, some key drivers include:
- Cost Effectiveness: Unlike large enterprises, SMBs find implementing enterprise-class IT infrastructure, and adapting to changes in IT capabilities, cost prohibitive, and this is where cloud-based services come into play. Cloud-based services offer SMBs enterprise-class IT solutions at affordable prices. By adopting cloud-based services, SMBs do not have to pay upfront fees as cloud offerings are available on a “pay-as-you-go” basis with no long-term commitment.
- Scalability: One of the key benefits of cloud-based services is scalability, allowing SMBs to easily scale IT requirements up or down as needed. SMBs enjoy the flexibility of adding or removing additional licenses and capabilities to accommodate changing business needs.
- Faster Deployment: Cloud-based services are also inherently ready-to-use and easy-to-deploy. Planning, buying, building, and implementing an in-house IT infrastructure is not only costly but also time-consuming for SMBs. With cloud-based services, SMBs can easily get up and running within hours or days rather than weeks or months.
- Security: Cloud-based companies have the scale to implement robust security policies and infrastructures. SMBs benefit by having the security of a large deployment while only paying for what they need.
- Maintenance: Cloud-based service providers take on the ongoing maintenance burden for backend servers, upgrades, monitoring and all of the activities necessary to ensure up-time. The SMB can focus on their business, while the cloud service provider deals with the back-office complexity.
- Mobility & Device Independence: Since cloud-based services are offered over the Internet, end users are not limited to accessing services via a specific computer, making it easier for users to access what they need from anywhere.
While some SMBs are not looking for cloud-based IT capabilities or IT infrastructure resources, there are certain cloud-based services that are widely used by SMBs such as:
- Online Data Storage and Backup: One of the most commonly used cloud-based services among SMBs is online data storage and backup, with many providers offering unlimited storage capability, automated data sync and backups. Some well-known data backup providers include Code 42 Software, Box and Dropbox.
- Online File Sharing: File sharing is another commonly used cloud-based service that allows coworkers to seamlessly share files within or outside the organization over secure channels.
- Web Hosting: SMBs that believe they are not cloud-ready or are not at all interested in moving to the cloud, are in-fact using web hosting services without realizing or acknowledging it. Almost every business uses cloud-based hosting services to host websites and other services.
- Communication: Internet-based voice and data communications is yet another commonly used service among SMBs. Cloud-based communication services offer cost-effective, reliable and secure communication environments to SMBs eliminating the need for conventional in-house PBX (Private Branch Exchange) systems.
Cloud–Based Services: SMB Wants and Needs
- Marketplace for Multiple Cloud Services: Although many SMBs are aware of the benefits that different cloud services can deliver, a large number of SMBs find it difficult to manage multiple vendors and service level agreements (SLA). According to a study commissioned by Microsoft of 3,000 small and medium sized businesses in 13 countries, 56% of SMBs showed preference towards buying IT and cloud services from a single source.Platforms like AppDirect™ not only encourage SMBs to adopt cloud-based services in a more simplified way, but also enable companies to distribute their web-based services among SMBs.
- Uptime Guaranteed: Despite the countless benefits that the cloud has to offer, some SMBs fear service downtime, for example, in 2011 Amazon experienced a three-day Web Service outage that raised concerns among many businesses. Nevertheless, the quality of cloud offerings has significantly improved since then and will most likely improve with the increased demand and competition.
- Dedicated Tech Support: As we have mentioned in our previous blog posts, a large number of SMBs lack dedicated, round-the-clock tech support and are largely reliant on value-added resellers (VARs) or local IT resources. It often becomes difficult for SMBs to have technology issues resolved in a timely and efficient manner. In order to run the business in an uninterrupted manner, SMBs require dedicated 24/7 IT support to curtail their expenses and ensure immediate tech support for a diverse array of technology platforms and devices.
According to research conducted by Park Associates, 45% percent of all SMBs with 1 to 20 employees report they have paid for tech support at least once in the past year. The report also indicates that larger SMBs, generally those with 21 to 99 employees, are more likely to be interested in purchasing a professional tech support subscription.
Cloud-based services offer more growth opportunities to SMBs than ever before. Market research predicts that the cloud adoption rate will increase in the coming years. Adopting cloud-based services is perhaps one of the most important strategic decisions that SMBs can make.
Support.com recently announced a partnership with AppDirect, a leading cloud service marketplace company.
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