Small Businesses Prep for a Cloudier 2014

The vast majority of small and midsized businesses (SMBs) plan to ditch at least some of their in-house IT in the New Year, opting instead for cloud services. That report comes from a new survey from j2 Global, a cloud services provider and the digital media company behind eFax, Campaigner and KeepItSafe.

J2 Global surveyed more than 1,600 professionals for its semiannual look at the small business market. And the results show that small businesses have a trouble letting go of their aging technology. The most impressive find, said Mike Pugh, vice president of marketing for j2 Global, is that “88 percent of respondents said they want to—and plan to—move legacy technology into the cloud in 2014.”

Small Business Savings in the Cloud

While cloud services have made it easier to take advantage of IT and computing services that were once exclusive to big enterprises, for many SMBs, the shift to cloud services comes down to savings. “Sixty percent said they want to do it because of cost,” said Pugh. Nearly 20 percent said that they expect savings of more than $1,000 per year.

“The proliferation of smartphones and tablets,” is also a factor. Anecdotally speaking, Pugh posited that as small business owners and employees became accustomed to using cloud-enabled apps and having the computing power of smartphones and tablets at home, they came to expect more of the same at work.

The cloud is also eroding the markets for fax machines and hardwired phone lines. The j2 Global study found that 27 percent of those polled plan to, or would at least like to, lose their office fax machines and subscribe to an online fax service in 2014. Likewise, 23 percent said that they plan to ditch their office landlines, or hope to.

“Now is the time for companies to see what parts of their operations they can move into the cloud,” so that they can focus on what drives their businesses, said Pugh. Freed from maintaining IT systems and infrastructures, small business owners can not only devote more time to serving their customers and growing their companies, they can save money too. It’s hard to argue against the budgetary benefits of subscribing to “a bunch of services for $10 to $20” versus buying, maintaining and upgrading on-premises systems, he added.

Connecting with Customers Through the Cloud

A significant number of small business owners also plan to use cloud services to boost their email marketing campaigns and to gain a social media advantage in 2014.

Forty-four percent of the survey respondents said they “will focus on tried-and-true practices when it comes to email marketing, with plans to leverage automation tools and run email campaigns to inspire sharing on social networks,” said the company. Fourteen percent plan to make mobile marketing best practices their top priority.

Mobile social media apps are also making an impression. Facebook is the top mobile app with seventy percent of respondents reporting that they use, or plan to use, the app for business development and marketing, followed by Twitter and YouTube.

The cloud also makes it easier for SMB employees to work anywhere. Countering Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s views on remote work, over a third (36 percent) of those surveyed said that they plan to provide their workers flexible policies in an effort to attract and retain talent in 2014.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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