The relationship between small- and medium-sized businesses and cloud computing is deep and rich. We look into the details with Anurag Agrawal, the founder and CEO of Techaisle, who sees use cases that are growing and evolving. They are also different depending on whether the larger or smaller sector of the SMB category is being considered.
IT Business Edge: What does the emergence of the cloud mean for small- and medium-sized businesses?
Agrawal: For small and medium-sized businesses, cloud is both an IT priority and an IT reality. In fact, it has become not only the essential IT infrastructure but also the essential business infrastructure as it addresses real-world issues. Techaisle’s survey of 848 SMBs [small- and medium-sized businesses] in the United States not only found a strong link between cloud and IT – it also found a strong link between cloud, IT and business success.
IT Business Edge: More specifically, what did you find?
Agrawal: The research shows that technology is viewed as critical to the success of SMB businesses. Cloud provides a compelling response to SMB business issues and addresses constraints within the SMB market. [Cloud provides] the ability to adopt new IT capabilities without adding IT staff. For SMBs, tech means cloud.
Today, cloud helps SMBs exert control over an uncertain environment. SMBs are sometimes seen as “small fish” in a pond that is also home to much larger creatures. They know, or at least have a sense, that they are subject to tides and actions that are understood only when they are felt: When business lags, when orders grow sparse, when supplier costs increase, when the competitive environment changes. Cloud offers direct relief.
In a very real sense, cloud delivers a degree of certainty and control over cost/performance and time. The need to manage technology as a business asset is an important real-world issue. Most SMB executives understand that technology plays a central role in their management processes. A small business has trouble consuming all of the capacity of new gear, meaning that they often pay for resources they don’t use. An SMB using cloud works with a provider capable of sustaining high utilization levels, which reduces the per-cycle cost of the underlying assets. And a cloud provider is able to purchase new gear in greater volumes than an SMB – qualifying it for greater scale-based discounts – and is attuned toward more rapid, “just in time” deployment of new systems. Cloud also meets the need of expanding the scope of staff skills. Every very small business -- and even many larger SMBs – understands that they are constrained by the staff they can engage.
IT Business Edge: What is the value proposition of the cloud?
Agrawal: In all ways, this is a money issue, but it is manifested in several ways: SMBs lacking the funds to hire as many people as they would like, lacking the funds and business scope to hire and fully engage specialists with important domain knowledge, and/or lacking the funds to employ or develop more skilled staff across their current organizations. The reality is that cloud and cloud-based systems help reduce some of the frictions that impede SMBs from addressing these staff issues. Because cloud is delivered “as a service,” important functions are handled by the supplier. This means that the SMB doesn’t have to dedicate employee budgets to IT staff with specialized skills that support core systems but don’t meaningfully differentiate the company. Cloud applications generally embed operational expertise sourced from industry leaders, so the SMB is able to quickly adopt processes that have been vetted in other organizations.
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