The Cloud and Your SMB: What You Need to Know to Overcome the Opposition
Cloud computing originally began as a way to back up files, photos, data and the like in case of a computer or server crash. If your files were stored “in the cloud” (read through the Internet on someone else’s servers), you were protected from losing all of your information at once. But then, companies began to realize that so many more things could be accomplished by using the cloud as an everyday working environment. For example, when your files/data are stored in the cloud, they can be accessed from anywhere that has an Internet connection: computer, tablet, or phone. This makes an employee completely mobile. Not only can employees work from home, the train, or a hotel, but they can work with anyone: different city, state, or country. With instant access to the most up-to-date version of their files, employees become more productive. Plus, many of the costs associated with IT are passed along to the cloud provider; no longer is an IT person needed on staff to install and update software, servers or run backups. But the cloud provides so much more for SMBs (small and medium-sized businesses)..
By taking advantage of the mobility and social business aspect (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) afforded by cloud computing, SMBs can identify, engage, and/or collaborate with new customers or partner businesses. This allows for innovation and partnerships that could have been left undiscovered. In a world where immediacy is key to survival, cloud computing allows SMBs to meet their customers’ expectations for information at their fingertips in the form of mobile and tablet apps. An added convenience for consumers and the SMB: feedback made easy. With a presence on Facebook/Twitter or with an easy-to-use app, client feedback can be addressed immediately and from anywhere to redress an issue and track to see if this is a one-time problem or a bigger issue that needs immediate attention. But is cloud computing all hearts and roses?
As with all new technology there are concerns that need to be given careful consideration. For example, if your data/files are stored ONLY in the cloud, and that cloud service provider goes down, you go down with it. Or if your cloud provider acquires a virus or is hacked, your information could be compromised. However, most cloud-stored data is now encrypted for safety reasons, and most cloud service providers work very hard to create a secure environment for their data storage, often investing more resources in data backup and security that SMBs could for their own companies. Plus, no one can eliminate all risk from a computing environment. Anyone can get a virus or get hacked, hard drives and servers can fail, or laptops with private work data can be stolen. It is up to SMBs to research their cloud service providers to ensure they are reputable and then, as with any business decision, weigh the benefits vs. the risks.
How and when SMBs take advantage of the cloud is up to them, but eventually they will. Let’s face it, the cloud is not the future, it’s the present. How, though, can SMBs advertise their cloud computing capabilities? Is it enough to just use the term “the cloud” in press releases, email marketing campaigns, and on company websites and assume readers will be impressed? Right now, hundreds of press releases a week are distributed to reporters and websites by SMBs about their cloud computing capabilities. “I can hardly stomach the term ‘cloud’ anymore because it has become so overused by marketing personnel,” said Eric Kilgore, a member of the information technology infrastructure team for Severstal North America, a Dearborn, Mich.-based manufacturing company.
To stand out, SMBs need to explain how cloud computing is setting their company apart from the competition, not just that they are now a part of the cloud in some way. What feature are they using (in the cloud) that makes them outshine everyone else, makes them faster, makes them smarter, easier to use, more profitable, etc.? Where does the competitive edge come from? “In two years’ time, […] I don’t think we’ll be talking cloud,” said Nigel Beighton, international VP of technology for Rackspace. “I think it’s an old word, almost. Look at some of the advanced markets, areas like the West Coast; the phrase is starting to die down.” The mentality is changing from ‘who is in the cloud’ to ‘what are you doing with the cloud?’ and that is what SMBs should be focusing on explaining to their current and future customers.”
Eric’s quote source: http://www.altaflux.com/enterprise-skepticism-remains-despite-cloud-benefits-growth/