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Small businesses need to embrace big technology

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Claiming that developing businesses are missing a trick by assuming the cloud is not for them, Steve Ball, managing director of Cloud 9, provider of IT services to small businesses, looks at how and why modern technology should be embraced.

Cloud computing is undoubtedly one of the key technology trends of recent decades. Gartner recently stated that it would be one of the top ten strategic technologies in 2011 and despite some questions still to be answered surrounding security; it still remains a technology which has considerable benefits to offer businesses.

However, despite the countless advantages of using such technologies and recent growth in awareness, not all businesses are embracing the cloud and the benefits it can bring. SMBs (small and medium sized businesses) in particular have on the whole, viewed cloud computing as something that simply is not that relevant to them, leaving larger organisations to lead the way.

Often without the time and resources to fully explore such new technologies, smaller, fast-growing organisations have, until recently at least, frequently been dismissing the cloud and the numerous benefits that cloud computing can offer.

Vladimir Jirasek of the Cloud Security Alliance recently stated that ‘cloud services do offer a quick-to-market, easy-to-use and cheap way of addressing SME business requirements'.  Surely compelling reasons for SMBs to investigate further? A technology that offers cost savings is a strong proposition at any time for most businesses, but arguably none more so than for SMBs in the current climate.

Cloud principles of using exactly the level of technology you need as opposed to investing in tools and equipment that may not be fully utilised also makes it a much greener way of managing IT.

Affordability in terms of up-scaling operations is also central to cloud computing's offering and this is core to a SMBs' IT needs. Businesses that are using a cloud model and which experience quick growth are far more able to easily and cheaply up-scale their IT provisions without needing to re-invest in expensive new infrastructure. Cloud computing is highly scalable and grows with the business, removing any IT-based barriers and restrictions on business development.

So why are some SMBs still so reluctant to take up the opportunities that cloud technologies present? Along with a previous lack of awareness, for some, security has been one of the key barriers. Much debate has been given over to this subject and a report by Forrester in 2010 stated that ‘creating more comprehensive security capabilities is a prerequisite for getting organisations to adopt cloud-based services'.

We are now seeing such capabilities coming into play, making the cloud more secure and working to resolve this issue for many. However it is exactly this type of concern that in a larger company, a dedicated chief information security officer (CISO) might be tasked with managing. In the case of an SMB, there is unlikely to be a CISO or an IT manager, leaving the task of fully understanding, managing and mitigating these issues with the managing director.

Perhaps understandable therefore, that he or she may be reluctant to approach this, instead deciding to continue with existing provision that may be in place.

This type of challenge highlights one of the key issues that SMBs face with the cloud. They now often understand the benefits that technologies bring but want specialist expertise and guidance on how to best implement and manage a cloud-based solution.

Things are changing and many smaller businesses are realising the potential of the cloud through consulting IT firms that can guide them through the process and work out a suitable strategy for their specific line of business.

As the technology improves and brings with it enormous business benefits, there is little doubt that moving forward we will see greater take-up of cloud-based solutions by SMBs.

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