• Small and midsize customers are well aware of cloud and virtualization, yet solution providers have an opportunity to help guide SMBs’ larger, long-term cloud plans—and develop ongoing relationships with local and vertical clients.
  • Small and midsize businesses are already using cloud applications such as Gmail and Salesforce. In fact, many SMBs already use at least one cloud or virtualized solution in the day-to-day operation of their business. However, solution providers have an opportunity to help guide SMBs’ larger, long-term cloud plans.

    One-fourth of small businesses were using server virtualization, according to an August 2011 study of SMBs by CDW. Of those that have not yet implemented server virtualization, almost three-fourths—or 73 percent—are researching or planning to implement the technology, the report found. That’s a lot of opportunity for solution providers, especially those with complementary expertise in prospective clients’ vertical market or geography. Virtualization obviously works, too: Those SMBs that have server virtualization have virtualized an average of one-third of their servers, a number that increases each quarter.

    The cloud is expected to be equally attractive to SMBs that, like their larger brethren, are seeking to do more with less, be more flexible and be speedily scalable. Across companies of all sizes, 84 percent were already using at least one cloud application, while 21 percent of both small and midsize companies were implementing or maintaining cloud computing, another CDW study found. These applications included Gmail, Microsoft LiveMeeting, WebEx and Salesforce, for example. Another study found 35 percent of SMBs plan to add cloud computing in 2012, “Channel Insider” reported.

    Solution providers can actively encourage clients to expand their cloud footprint, said David Cottingham, CDW’s senior director of managed services, in an interview with “Smarter Technology.”

    “There have been cloud-based email systems for years. Hotmail is cloud. People are comfortable that it’s a stable technology. What is probably lagging are some of the higher-end business processes. People are not putting their ERP system up in the cloud, unless they are very small,” said Cottingham. “That is because they have traditionally been dedicated, not even virtualized, systems. The applications they are looking at next are the things that behave well in a virtualized environment. That’s the way we guide people. Those become cloud candidates potentially.”

    Educating SMB clients is vital, agreed Mitch Merrifield, senior director of managed computing solutions for Verio, which commissioned a study earlier in 2010. The survey found that more than two-thirds of respondents were uncertain if they would purchase a cloud solution in the near future—yet many respondents wanted the benefits of a cloud offering, reported “Channel Insider.” In fact, 21 percent wanted the ability to share resources and one-fifth said on-demand resources were important.

    “This data clearly demonstrates that there continues to be a need for educating SMBs on the benefits of cloud and, more importantly, correlating those benefits to their current IT requirements,” said Merrifield. “SMBs want to drive efficiencies, and cloud technologies are some of the most innovative solutions to assist them in doing that.”

    For example, solution providers can demonstrate logical next-steps for cloud such as storage, disaster recovery and true unified communications. To transition SMBs from pilot or small cloud investments into these more business-centric or mission-critical applications, it is imperative that solution providers educate clients about the benefits—cost-savings, flexibility, integration with disaster recovery and business continuity plans, and scalability.

    Solution providers must allay any security concerns clients may have. They should discuss or show security policies, tools, patch-management policies and physical security. And if a solution provider is doing its job well, SMBs’ internal resources typically cannot compete in terms of security, reliability or cost.

  • This is accurate. Most SMB’s do NOT fully understand the benefits (or risks) of Cloud Computing. It doesn’t matter how beneficial it actually is. If people don’t understand it, they won’t invest in it. For examples of excellent education on SMB technology needs and Cloud Computing see the following:
    Educational Marketing Video – DynaSis’ ASCEND Hybrid Cloud Solution (http://businesstechnologyfutur… )
    What is Cloud Computing? (http://www.dynasis.com/cloud-h… )