Cloud Makes Small Business Look Big
Rajesh Rege, Senior VP, Data center and Cloud business, Cisco India and SAARC
The prospect of global expansion used to be a daunting process for small companies. If one ran a small business, the prospect of global expansion was time-consuming and a costly process-a near-impossibility. The Web has changed all that. With the Internet small business owners can market their companies and conduct business globally-and they can do so inexpensively and easily, often without setting foot on foreign soil.
Social media, blogs, new collaboration tools, videoconferencing are changing the rules of the game for many small businesses. With these technologies, small businesses can enter markets they never could a few years ago. While technology does not always replace face-to-face contact, latest technology—driven by location-aware mobile devices, cloud computing and low cost apps-is helping drive sales back to physical stores. Additionally technologies like cloud computing ensure that no one knows it is a small business.
Case in point: Imagine a consulting company owner whose land lease was about to expire. The owner had to decide whether to renew the lease or not. After studying the numbers and alternatives the owner realized he simply didn't have to be in one location and didn’t need to sink capital into all those servers and all that software. Instead, he and his employees could work virtually, tapping into applications on a cloud hosting service to do everything from sharing documents to retrieving customer information. This was highly affordable and much better than his less-capable in-house IT setup.
This means using cloud computing SMEs can reduce costs, both Capex and Opex with regards to IT resources, power and energy since the infrastructure is owned, managed and maintained by the service provider. With cloud computing a growing SME organization can add new users on demand, from any location, thereby further reducing the time required to expand operations. The cost of expansion can also be mitigated, because expensive hardware is no longer required for new employees.
The biggest advantage of cloud computing is that SMEs can access enterprise level technology, which their normal IT budgets may not be able to afford. When there is a need for business ramp up, SMEs just need to turn up the bandwidth, users and processing power as required. Implementing cloud services is easy; the time taken for the process is also less, unlike a hardware implementation which can take several hours. The other key benefit is the ability to easily bring different applications together.
Cloud computing allows SMEs to compete more effectively with some of the larger businesses and effectively balances the playing field. With the local hosted and managed services market becoming more mature, the cost per user becomes very competitive; making it a comprehensive value proposition for SMEs. However it is important that SMEs implementing cloud solutions think customer-facing. They need to look at cloud options that will give them the greatest payoff, evaluate the interfaces where they can interact with customers because that is where they would begin to design more professional, advanced types of communication, which includes anything from billing and email to project management and telephone systems.
It is also important to note that the point isn't about making oneself appear bigger if businesses can't deliver the goods, because customers ultimately judge business on performance. This is especially critical for startups keen on making customers coming back again and again. In summary therefore, cloud computing provides ways to attract new business and especially encourages repeat business. It helps small businesses generate new streams of revenue and gives them a new window into their sales, customers and the effectiveness of their promotions. By evolving partnerships and strategies to credibly deliver on what customers are asking for, SMEs can gain success with cloud computing.