By now, most IT professionals agree that cloud computing has lived up to the hype and has posited itself as a truly useful enterprise tool. Adoption rates among small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) is through the roof – up from 14% deployment in 2010 to 39% in 2011. Not only is the use of cloud computing expanding, but it’s growing up with businesses. The larger an enterprise grows the more likely it is to buy into the cloud.The many and varied benefits of the cloud are well-established at this point:
- reduced costs from lower capital investments
- access to outsourced, proactive IT support
- usability of applications beyond the limitations of a single device
- the freedom and flexibility of webmail and web hosting
But what does cloud computing mean for the future of SMBs? As the primary models of cloud computing shift from Software as a Service (SaaS) models to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) models, the SMB landscape will begin to evolve into a more real-time, analytics-driven environment where the emphasis is on scalability and effectively processing information. Here’s a breakdown of what we can expect the impact of the cloud to be on SMBs in the future.
1. Cloud-based advertising will expand its impact to SMBs
Of all the areas in which the cloud will affect SMBs, none will be bigger and more profound than in the field of advertising. Cloud-based advertising will make it easier for SMBs to target their advertising efforts towards audiences who are already engaged with or interested in the product or service being showcased. Startups like Flite are already revolutionizing audience-centric advertising for large Fortune 500 companies, and as the cloud-based advertising market grows and costs drop SMBs will be able to take advantage. Cloud-based advertising offers unique advantages in the form of web-based ad builders and personalized, location-specific advertising (think local movie showtime lookup after a trailer plays) that offer maximum audience engagement at minimal overhead.
2. Shedding the need for a centralized office space
As more and more SMBs buy into the cloud and the quality and variety of cloud services continue to improve, the need for a centralized office space will begin to seem archaic for some SMBs. Any employee with a computer and an internet connection will be able to work from anywhere. The need for face-to-face meetings can already be met with services such as Google+ and GoTo Meeting, and more services will begin to enter the market as demand grows.
As SMBs expand beyond geographical boundaries, the possibilities for growth begin to open up – hiring the best candidate for an open position regardless of location or building relationships with clients stationed on the other side of the country are no longer challenges, but necessities.
3. Quicker growth, at lower cost
We’ve already mentioned the current freedoms and flexibility brought on by web hosting and the liquidation of capital as a result of getting the servers off-site. The next step for SMBs is adopting cloud management platforms to handle growth (an example of the aforementioned IaaS model). Services like Scalr handle increased traffic with automatic scaling, allowing SMBs to take on growth without upgrading physical servers or exceeding hosting subscription limits. This will allows SMBs to grow at virtually limitless rates, while keeping the increase in cost to a minimum.
4. Real-time Infrastructure will make competition fierce
Today’s information economy is very much centered around the need for real-time, up to the minute information, and SMBs will be forced to meet that demand in order to remain competitive. Fortunately, the maturation of real-time network infrastructure software will give SMBs access to more real-time analytics, but the result is a more faster-paced, competitive marketplace. SMBs that maintain quality real-time infrastructures in the cloud and act on usable analytics proactively will the be the most successful.
As we move forward with cloud computing, emphasis will continue to be placed on efficiency, timeliness and overhead reduction – and that gives SMBs a lot of room to grow.