The Not-so-small Business of the Cloud

In the eyes of many small business owners, moving all or part of their small business IT to the cloud can be a daunting task.  Yet recent trends such as bring-your-own-device (BYOD), the consumerization of IT and the strong correlation between technology and business outcomes, have sparked a movement to cloud-based solutions across all industries — small business included.

Small businesses are shifting initiatives to take advantage of cloud offerings — even if only for select services — to reap the benefits it offers.

The State of Small Business Cloud

A new CDW report, The State of the Cloud, surveyed 1,242 IT professionals to explore what drives the transition to the cloud, which applications are moving to the cloud and the advantages (beyond cost savings) that businesses are realizing.  Here’s what the report found for small businesses.

In 2011, 21 percent of small businesses were implementing or maintaining cloud computing.  In just one year, the count doubled to an impressive 42 percent.  What is causing such significant growth?

Seventy percent of small business IT professionals report that their personal use of cloud influences their recommendation of organizational adoption, while 45 percent said employee use of cloud applications and mobile devices accelerate organizational implementation.  As we integrate 21st century technology into everyday life, its presence and power in small business becomes increasingly evident.

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Cloud Computing Champions

So who’s in charge here?  Fifty-one percent of small business IT professionals making the decision to move to the cloud are IT directors.  Surprisingly, 48 percent are CIOs and CTOs.  Unlike traditional IT decisions, the cloud is quickly becoming a business decision, not a technology selection.  One small business CIO surveyed noted, “I realized when using the Amazon Cloud for music that having all stored files available at a moment’s notice — anywhere, anytime — would increase business.”

Small businesses as a whole are quicker to move certain applications and services to the cloud than larger firms.  Forty percent are migrating (or have migrated) storage, followed by conferencing and collaboration at 37 percent and messaging at 36 percent.

These cloud-based services provide an always-connected, easy-access work environment that promotes efficiency and productivity.  In fact, 55 percent of the current cloud users surveyed reported an increase in efficiency, 49 percent pointed to improved employee mobility and 32 percent cited an increased ability to innovate.

If you’re considering cloud computing for your small business, take the following steps.  First, discuss the possibility with a variety of your stakeholders for thoughtful analysis of benefits and costs.  This will help you choose a cloud strategy that’s consistent with your business needs.

Next, move non-mission critical applications to the cloud first. In other words, applications that don’t pose unacceptable risks to your small business or ones that don’t involve a complex implementation. This helps avoid organizational risk.  Finally, leverage your employees’ consumer experience with cloud — their familiarity will maximize your company’s cloud adoption success.

Once you start planning, figure out your internal “cost to serve” per application, which will help your business determine ROI for public cloud solutions.  And remember, when working with cloud providers, look for contracts that establish and enforce service levels and security standards.

Jill Billhorn is the vice president of small business at CDW.

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Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing addresses the technology needs of small businesses, which are defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees and/or less than $7 million in annual sales.

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