Microsoft Corp. (IW 500/16) released a report this week demonstrating how small businesses are turning to the cloud to help them become major players in the global market.
With paid cloud services expected to double in the next five years and triple in the next three with small companies, the research report shows that small and midsize businesses (SMBs) are increasingly turning to these services to expand their geographical reach and identify global opportunities previously unavailable to them.
"Gone are the days of large enterprises holding the keys to enterprise-class IT and services," said Marco Limena, vice president of Operator Channels at Microsoft. "The cloud levels the playing fields for SMBs, helping them compete in today's quickly changing business environment by spending less time and money on IT and more time focused on their most important priority -- growing their businesses."
Backing this claim are the report's findings of surging confidence among SMBs, even despite the sluggish global economy:
- 63 percent of SMBs using cloud services today expect growth in sales in the next 12 to 18 months.
- 55 percent believe technology will power their growth.
- 50 percent say cloud computing is going to become more important for their operations.
- 58 percent believe the cloud can make companies more competitive.
According to the company, there are a host of cloud services that are especially tempting to smaller companies to help make this happen. These include delivery and project management, HR, accounting and e-commerce, among many others.
However promising this looks, the report also indicates a number of potential stumbling blocks on the cloud's road to ubiquity.
Primarily, the survey respondents seem to report a lingering sense of mistrust about the technology that would prevent full adoption.
Some 70 percent of respondents say it is important to know where their information is located and 30 percent say it is important that it stays in the country. Furthermore, 44 percent still believe that cloud services are unproven and are therefore too risky.
Also, 60 percent of small businesses say they dont have resources to implement new technologies and applications. While this is certainly a concern, Microsoft suggests that this will just open the door for the emerging paid cloud services to come to fruition, with 56 percent of these companies reporting a preference toward buying IT and cloud services from a single source.
Surprisingly, security was not listed as a major concern in the report. According to the study, only 20 percent believe that data is less secure in the cloud than it is in their on-premise system. This indicates significant advances in public trust and understanding of cloud computing and may be strong evidence of the cloud's inevitable expansion.