Lifting the haze over the cloud
Looking through the haze, now is the perfect time for SMBS to move to the cloud says Stephane Ibos.
The cloud is one of the trendiest topics in business right now. It may feature on nearly every event program but it continues to be wildly misunderstood. Most businesses understand that the cloud ‘will happen’ and are waiting for its time to really arrive. The reality is that this time has arrived and it’s time to dispel some myths.
SMBs are the bread and butter of most economies. Australia is no exception with a staggering two million SMBs powering the nation. These businesses are driven by successful, motivated professionals pioneering exceptional products and services on limited resources. These companies attract bright, nimble minds that collaborate to make fast decisions and propel growth.
Paradoxically, these forward thinking businesses are managed and run on spreadsheets. According to Microsoft’s “Drivers and Inhibitors to Cloud Adoption for Small and Medium Businesses” 2013 survey, 80% of SMBs use spreadsheets as a primary tool to conduct their operations and more than 60% of these self-manage their IT. I am fascinated by this discrepancy in reality and intention.
Cloud services have become much more sophisticated in their evolution. The advantages of the cloud are becoming better known and accepted – 80% of business owners feel they need to move to the cloud very soon to benefit from its ease of use, delocalised access and low costs – so what have been the traditional barriers to entry for SMB owners?
CLOUD VS SMALL TO MEDIUM BUSINESS – IN THE BEGINNING, UNREQUITED LOVE
Firstly, the cloud has traditionally been difficult to access – and particularly to
find the right cloud for your business. There are plenty of offers out there online and suffice to say that typing ‘Cloud CRM’ in an online search engine will return more results than you could ever hope for – a time-consuming and difficult task to sort through the options and understand the benefits and costs.
Secondly, cost has been a showstopper in the cloud story for SMBs. Plenty of websites will offer attractive (if not free) entry offers, which soon turn out to be insufficient. These offers are designed to lead the prospect to choosing paid plans. Once stepping into the world of ‘real’ plans, it is disappointing to realise how pricey they become – particularly when compared to that free spreadsheet!
The third and final barrier to entry is security. Most of our customers ask (and rightly so) where their data is hosted, who owns it, what would happen if the company disappeared or if a natural disaster struck? These are relevant questions but unfortunately most cloud solution providers do not clarify these points in a simple, transparent and understandable manner. We are wise enough to know that when something is unclear, it’s probably worth avoiding.
Weighing up these three barriers, it’s clear why the cloud can seem complicated, expensive and unsecure. The challenge is for the next generation of cloud services providers to change the perception and prove the inherent advantages of moving business systems to a sophisticated and secure cloud based service.
THE NEW GENERATION OF CLOUD SERVICES – YOUNG LOVE
The beautiful thing about the internet is the constant innovation that it nurtures. There are great products and platforms out there that have endeavoured to change the way the cloud operates and hope in turn that its perception will change as well.
There’s never been a better time to trust in the cloud. As it becomes more widespread, platforms become available to distinguish between the good and bad and help businesses compare and analyse offers.
Most new cloud services are transparent and offer great ways to get started with simple tutorials, free trial periods and support provided by real people – a real game changer. Innovative platforms such as Maestrano have launched with the dedicated intention to bring to the cloud a whole new level of simplicity, security and enhanced services, specifically for SMBs. It is becoming far easier for SMBs to find clear products at cost- effective prices.
Today is the first day of the rest of the cloud’s life. And it is an opportunity for SMBs to save time, money and get rid of the burden of the expensive server in the backroom of the office. Gone are the days of the IT consultant coming in every Friday to change the hard drive and the outrageous licenses paid for limited functionality desktop software.
THE FUTURE – MAKING A MARRIAGE
It is understandable that fears remain. For most SMBs it has been hard enough to establish systems that just ‘do the job’. Changing and learning new systems can be a daunting task but sophisticated engineering has enabled the cloud to evolve into a solid and stable place offering real options and support for SMBs.
As President Abraham Lincoln said on education versus ignorance: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” I would offer, “If you think new is scary, try old.”
SMB owners are embracing a growing mind shift as they realise the huge benefits of moving to the cloud and that there has never been a better time for businesses to make the jump. The cloud migration is happening. A Ring-Central annual survey in 2013 forecasted that SMBs will spend more than $9 billion dollars by 2016 moving to the cloud.
These businesses will be faster, more agile and secure, well positioned to deliver new products and services in real time, anywhere, anytime. The haze is lifting, the cloud is a real opportunity for SMBs – the sky is the limit.
‘ The beautiful thing about the internet is the constant innovation that it nurtures.’