Throughout the rest of 2018, small to mid-size businesses (SMBs) are expected to continue to increase their usage of cloud services for data storage, file hosting and sharing, web-based email and customer relationship management — in other words, almost every essential function of business. A vast majority of SMBs are already using at least one cloud-based application, and that number is likely to increase this year as these companies continue to discover the competitive advantages offered by the cloud and cloud-based applications. So, how is SMB cloud usage growing and changing, and how are providers rising up to meet their demands?
SMB Cloud Usage Is Big Business
More than 60 percent of IT professionals predict their operating system will become irrelevant due to cloud-based programs. That’s a jaw-dropping statistic, but it makes sense when you see just how far the cloud is infiltrating into daily work life. Right now, SMB cloud usage covers software-as-a-service (SaaS), infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS). They can also use it for any number of new services popping up that fit into those segments, such as artificial intelligence, security and regulatory issues. With so many options, you’d have to wonder why SMBs — which are already hard-pressed on budgets, staffing and expertise — would choose anything but the cloud to meet their IT needs.
Seriously: SMBs have no time for complicated. A recent study showed 80 percent of SMBs would prefer to get a single bill for all their communications consumption. They don’t want the stress. They don’t want the hassle. They don’t want to order and manage and update and process. They just want technology that can do the things they need to run their businesses efficiently. It’s no wonder that 90 percent of companies with 100-499 employees are using cloud services. It makes you wonder what the other 10 percent are doing!
Providers Step Up to Demand
The increased demand for cloud means that cloud providers are stepping up to meet those growing demands — and not just in the types of services offered but in the quality of those services, as well. Banks and credit unions are discovering that cloud service can help protect private member data better and more easily than traditional data centers. In fact, 95 percent of small businesses have felt a security boost since moving to the cloud. That’s no fluke — that’s quality data protection. And providers are also finding better ways to tailor their services to meet SMB cloud usage needs. In other words, they see a market, and they’re working hard to grow and keep it.
Get the Most Out of the Cloud
If you’re an SMB and you’re either tip-toeing into the cloud arena or looking for more ways to expand it within your company, here are some tips:
- Be Open: The cloud offers so many ways to increase agility, scalability and efficiency for your business. In fact, more than 80 percent of companies showed reduced costs by using cloud tech. Even if you have a data center or are unsure whether a full cloud-based infrastructure is right for you, consider your options. Do your research. Think in terms of not just cost savings but time savings, as well. Can a cloud-based email marketing service save time by automating communications and crunching data? Can a cloud-based regulatory tool improve your ability to keep your data secure and compliant? What’s more, can it save you from hiring a team of specialists to do those things for you?
- Be Curious: One of the great things about being an SMB is that you’re smaller and nimbler than your larger competitors. That means you can embrace new tech and cloud usage trends more easily, and the cloud promises tons of new options ahead. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, data churning, smart marketing and the Internet of Things all hold tremendous growth potential for your company. By being curious about how those technologies can help — and finding proven cloud solutions that offer them — you’ll be well on your way to outpacing even your strongest and largest competitor.
- Be Brave: Moving into digital transformation can be scary. But when it comes to cloud usage trends, sooner is better than later — especially when it comes to tech that so many companies are already using to improve their businesses. In fact, one study showed that 43 percent of businesses operating in the cloud wished they had done it sooner. Maybe that’s because it increased the mobility of their global workforce. Maybe it’s because it automated many of their mind-numbing processes — and with fewer errors. Or maybe it’s because it gave them one less issue to worry about. Whatever the case, don’t be part of that 43 percent! Be one of the ones racing toward the change that could bring your company even greater success.
The cloud is here to stay. It’s not a fad that will come and go, and it’s not one that’s more relevant some companies than others, like augmented and virtual reality might be. The cloud allows you to personalize your tech in ways that were never possible before, saving you time, money and stress in the process. SMB cloud usage will only continue to increase in 2018 as they find renewed confidence in the quality of the cloud, as well as their own ability to work with and manage it.
This post was brought to you by IBM Global Technology Services. For more content like this, visit IT Biz Advisor.