It is a critical time for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). They are under constant pressure to do more with less. There is little room for error. To be competitive against larger enterprises with unlimited IT budgets, SMBs need to be armed with the right information to guide their business appropriately. For many, cloud is an opportunity to exceed goals and change the competitive landscape.
At Cloud4SMB Expo in Austin on Tuesday, panelists at the “Why SMBs Need the Cloud More Than Ever,” discussed why SMBs can’t afford to overlook this opportunity, how the cloud will help build their business, and what they must consider when evaluating cloud providers.
“SMBs have either been ignored or embraced. This economy has caused a lot of attention to be paid to the SMBs – You’ve heard of the Fortune 500. Well, there is a Fortune 9 million out there so there is a lot of potential if you will,” said Mark Ricca, partner at IntelliCom Analytics (News - Alert) and moderator of the session.
Heather Hinton, IBM distinguished engineer, discussed some of the benefits of cloud, including efficiency and flexibility from an infrastructure perspective.
“What makes cloud very powerful for SMBs is the software available today. The other aspect of cloud is the IaaS, so I can go and spin up a new server at the drop of a hat. If it works, I keep it, if it doesn’t, I shut it down. This is one of the things that makes the cloud very powerful,” Hinton said.
There was also discussion as to whom – among SMBs – is buying cloud and the panel revealed that there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to purchasing power.
“We sometimes see the IT manager, sometimes it’s the CIO – I think it really depends on the individual need. I don’t think there is a clear line of demarcation,” said Adam Hansen, small business advocate at Rackspace (News - Alert).
There is a great deal of attention being paid to the return on investment of cloud, however businesses won’t necessarily see immediate savings, but more so gain long-term efficiencies. According to Hansen, SMBs will save time and energy that you can’t put a dollar to after deploying cloud.
Meanwhile, Hinton said businesses need to measure the cost of the opportunity itself before determining whether cloud adoption is the right decision.
“Once you are getting involved, if you are going to host a large environment in the cloud you are going to have to deal with everything you would with a physical infrastructure. Someone else has to worry about those in the cloud. It’s not just the cost benefits it’s also the time savings,” she said.
Security is a primary pushback among SMBs, which are concerned about the risks involved in cloud.
“The cloud is wonderful but it’s not a free ride. You still have to pay attention to these things. When you sit down with a customer, you have to look at what is really right for their environment,” Hinton said.
For SMBs considering the adoption of cloud-based services, they need to have a strategy and a plan before they start evaluating potential vendors.
“Know what you want to achieve before you start looking and adopting. What is it that you are going to use it for? How is it going to be used? How much of a partnership do you want from a provider? Those are the things you have to have an idea about when you go about investigating cloud,” Hinton advised.
Want to learn more about cloud computing solutions geared specifically towards small to medium-sized businesses? Don’t miss the Cloud4SMB Expo, collocated with ITEXPO Austin 2012 happening now in Austin, TX. Stay in touch with everything happening at Cloud4SMB Expo. Follow us on Twitter.
Edited by Brooke Neuman