We heard one story about an IT department that said that the company could not afford to have more people accessing the Internet. Yes, the Internet is too expensive for small business. Maybe it's time to scrap the dial up?
Cloud computing is one of those classic disruptions to a business that over time becomes part of the fabric for a how a company operates.
You can either get into it now and be a leader or wait and join with the rest of the masses. That's not to say going with the masses is a bad thing. Every company has a different timeline.
But take this into consideration:
Think you can't take on the big companies in your market? Think again. A study by K2 Advisory finds that adoption rates by smaller organizations of public cloud and SaaS services from vendors such as Amazon and Google will outpace the adoption rate of larger enterprises by a factor of two.
That means while the big guys are scratching their heads, the smaller, smarter players can potentially make inroads into markets where they could not go before. Why? It's just easier to scale and integrate on a global scale.
"In five years' time the provision of IT to mid-sized and smaller businesses (of less than 1000 employees) will be quite distinct in terms of cloud adoption from enterprises," said Kathy Ring of K2. " 'Indeed, it could be argued that small and mid-sized business use of cloud computing will enhance their agility and their ability to bounce back more quickly from the recession of 2009/10. Many Western enterprises, however, will continue to find that their IT systems are increasingly sclerotic, constrained by client-server ERP systems.' "
Cloud services leverage the massive server capacity available. It's elastic in nature, meaning it can scale up or down, based on demand for the service. A small business can expense the cost as opposed to purchasing an IT asset such as a server.
It's a big reason why online services for small business have grown at such a clip. For example, online conteny management systems are now available that can be used as an alternative to making investments in services that require substantial IT investments. It has meant that small startups are competing in much larger markets against very big competitors. Box.net, for example, just received $15 million in funding. Their target: Microsoft Sharepoint.
Of course, technology companies provide the ability to scale in different ways than other types of services. But there are plenty of examples for how this movement is taking hold. Really, any company can leverage the cloud to take advantage of its storage and application infrastructure.
So, where do you start? Start by trying out some services to get a feeling for what you can do:
Google Docs. See how it compares to Microsoft Office.
Skype. Explore how you can use Internet-based services to replace voice and video.
SugarSync. Get access to your desktop from anywhere, any time. Services like SugarSync offer the capability to access your file and desktop from anywhere you may be:
Small businesses may feel overwhelmed by cloud computing. But it's worth the effort in experimenting. There is a small window that is open now. Companies that can take advantage of it may be best positioned to compete against their larger counterparts.