When it comes to implementing cloud solutions, the range of options available to small and medium-sized businesses is “simply massive,” Prasad Thammineni declares. “Basically, for any function that you can do via software, the cloud offers a solution.” That includes both the obvious—basic applications such as file storage—and the types of services most SMBs have come to expect from point solutions—things like invoicing, CRM, even email.
OfficeDrop, a searchable online cloud storage provider of which Thammineni is co-founder and CEO, estimates that 15 percent of SMBs are already using some form of cloud storage at this point, but that there is a strong trend for many companies to move beyond storage and into a wide variety of different service options. Two popular SMB cloud applications are finance and accounting tools and project management apps. “We also see an increased demand for tools that monitor social media, as well as outbound marketing management apps,” says Ferdi Roberts, founder and CEO of SaaS Markets, which builds, brands, and launches SaaS (Software as a Service) app stores with corporate partners. “Moreover, there is a strong demand for IT security (cloud apps), which remains consistent regardless of other market factors.”
SMBs also face options when it comes to choosing which type of cloud service to implement:
Large private clouds are beyond the means of most SMBs, but even managing public cloud resources can be a challenge for many companies. Instead, they should take advantage of the lower cost of ownership provided by the multiple services built on top of most public clouds, Thammineni suggests. “If you need invoicing, go buy FreshBooks, but don’t reinvent the wheel by trying to take a server/desktop solution and hosting it in the cloud yourself,” he says. The challenges of managing public cloud resources make SaaS applications a logical choice for most SMBs. “For instance, for businesses that do not have developers on staff, SaaS applications enable them to run their entire IT infrastructure in the cloud for dollars a day, without many of the IT management headaches that come with owning your own hardware,” Roberts says.
Cloud-based solutions make particular sense for SMB owners who wear a number of hats and find themselves spending too much time on non-core and/or non-revenue-generating items like IT. “Technology should enhance productivity, not eat your time,” Thammineni says. “With cloud solutions, software installation requirements are limited or nonexistent, and updates and maintenance are handled by the provider. Cloud apps are hugely cost-effective.”