Cloud computing in 2011: a gift or just wishful thinking?

by Marcy Hoffman on December 14, 2010

boy opening gift

If a genie appeared before you granting you 5 IT wishes to improve your small business in 2011, what would you ask for?

Let’s start by clarifying what we refer to as a Small Business. The SBA classifies small business at 500 employees or less, yet the fastest growing segment are businesses (called micro-business) with less than 20 employees (per SBA and Kauffman Foundation). From an IT perspective, micro-businesses have fewer IT resources yet can move more quickly in implementing new technologies. So, in this season of wishful thinking (followed by the ubiquitous New Year resolutions), let’s look at the top 5 gifts that the cloud can bring the typical micro-business owner.

1. The gift of time

According to a recent Samsung study which examines how workers are actually using IT in the workplace and how this affects issues such as productivity, health and security, employees spend an average of 7 hours a week fixing IT headaches. Take that number, multiply it by your hourly cost per employee, than multiply that figure by the number of employees….and you have a staggering figure. Now imagine for a moment the impact that cloud computing can have on your bottom line: reduced hardware costs (servers, new computers and laptops etc) elimination of software licensing costs, shorter or non-existent learning curves of integration of new upgrades- and this list only scratches the surface.

2. The gift of peace among men (effective collaboration amongst your team)

Collaboration takes on a different connotation when used by a small business versus larger enterprises. An apt definition Building toward a defined outcome through the interactions and input of multiple people works for both, but the small business, or micro-business, needs simple, effective tools that allow it to react quickly to events as they happen. One of our clients, a small electrical company, came to us seeking a user friendly system where they could post and share schedules with their field installers and keep track of multiple tasks on important projects. They needed a solution that was quick to implement and even quicker to understand. Using StreetSmart’s cloud based software, this client was up and running with a couple of days.

3. The gift of money

See the gift of time. They are the same.  Imagine how 2011 would turn out if every hour spent on IT related issues would be spent on sales, marketing or simply getting out to meet your customers.

4. The gift of reduced stress: (IT-lenol? IT-pirin?)

John Wycliff wrote in a recent article “All too often the boss spends much of his or her time fighting fires. Rather than an owner working on the business they have become crisis managers. Many sit in their offices and wait for someone to come through the door with a problem that needs attention or resolution — now”. Any bets on how many of these ‘problems’ are tech related? Computers need upgrading to be able to use that new program you spent thousands of dollars on, your sales team cant log into your CRM from the field and no on can remember how to reboot the server because your part-time IT person isn’t answering his phone. True, cloud computing won’t solve all your headaches, but cloud based software will reduce your stress levels considerably. Take the issues mentioned above: computers don’t need to be upgraded because they aren’t running any programs; your sales team will be able to log into the crm as long as they have an internet connection or a smart-phone (and they will be able to update their information in real time, allowing for true and instantaneous collaboration and information sharing) and there are no servers to reboot. I had an ah’ha moment last week when my 5 year old lap top went into a coma (didn’t die, just went on life support). For a moment, that panicky feeling of lost data came over me until I realized that there was nothing to lose.  Every document, presentation and program that I use was safely tucked away in the cloud. The gift of IT-lenol.

5. The gift of business future

A recent study fielded by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center surveyed 895 technology stakeholders and critics about the future of cloud computing in the workplace. Some 71% agreed with the statement: “By 2020, most people won’t do their work with software running on a general-purpose PC. Instead, they will work in Internet-based applications such as Google Docs, and in applications run from smartphones”. Add to this prediction the realization that millenniums (under 25) are entering the workforce having grown up in a networked, cloud based world and will be bringing these habits to their workplace. Desktops, servers, download-able software will be as familiar to them as a typewriter is to today’s worker.

This is the gift of the future only it is available in the present.

Contact us what IT gifts you would like to see for 2011 and we’ll include it our march to 2011.

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