By Laurie Head
AIS Network Vice President
Move over enterprise. The cloud is where it’s at for small business too. New research, announced today by Microsoft, predicts a significant increase in paid cloud services among small and midsize businesses (SMBs) over the next five years.
Conducted by Edge Strategies, the research includes survey responses from IT decision-makers or influencers at more than 3,000 SMBs in 13 countries. According to the survey results, paid cloud services are expected to double in five years, while the number of the world’s smallest companies using at least one paid cloud service will triple in the next three years.
“Gone are the days of large enterprises holding the keys to enterprise-class IT and services,” commented Microsoft vice president of operator channels Marco Limena in the corporate press release.
“The cloud levels the playing field for SMBs, helping them compete in today’s quickly changing business environment, by spending less time and money on IT and more time focused on their most important priority — growing their businesses.”
The cloud represents a major opportunity for SMBs.
Cloud computing is able to deliver more of what small and midsize businesses need — cheaper operations and faster, better fusion of vital information to virtually any device. In fact, the research finds 59 percent of companies currently using cloud services report significant productivity benefits from information technology, compared with just 30 percent of SMBs not yet using the cloud.
Moreover, despite a sluggish global economy, 63 percent of SMBs using cloud services today expect to grow in sales in the next 12 to 18 months while 55 percent believe technology will power their growth.
SMBs worldwide are embracing cloud services to reap those benefits and stay ahead of competitors — 50 percent of SMBs say cloud computing is going to become more important for their operations, and 58 percent believe working in the cloud can make companies more competitive.
More Options, Fewer Concerns
SMBs’ appetites for the cloud are only growing as they add more devices and services — and as their concerns about the cloud wane.
- Cloud adopters want to do more with devices. Mobility is essential to current cloud users. They want mobile devices for more than email, including productivity and business apps.
- Security is a priority but no longer a main concern. Only about 20 percent of SMBs believe that data is less secure in the cloud than it is in their on-premise systems. Thirty-six percent overall and 49 percent of larger SMBs actually think that data is as secure in the cloud as in their own systems.
- Local is better when it comes to service providers. Most SMBs feel it is important to buy services from a provider with a local presence, and 31 percent feel this is critical.
Although many SMBs are interested in the benefits that the cloud can deliver, many are unable to identify which services would be most valuable for them to implement and select a service provider. More than 60 percent of SMBs indicate they do not have the resources necessary to implement new technologies and services, and 52 percent do not have the resources to get their employees trained.
For the large ecosystem of cloud service providers, this represents significant opportunity to bridge the knowledge and implementation gap and gain new customers — 56 percent of SMBs report a preference toward buying IT and cloud services from a single source.