Unlike their large enterprise counterparts, it seems that SMBs are always sharpening their pencils and struggling to make ends meet—and not just at quarterly budget reviews, either.
Unsurprisingly, then, cloud solutions are a logical SMB choice because cloud is perceived as being a cheaper, quicker way for acquiring IT capabilities that SMBs could scarcely afford on their own.
Industry figures corroborate this. In 2013, 61 percent of SMBs reported using cloud-based solutions, and 69 percent of SMBs with less than 20 employees were using cloud.
Nevertheless, in the process of embracing cloud, SMBs should also be mindful of the assumptions they are making with respect to their businesses, as well as to the control they are ceding to others for their IT.
Let's look at three assumptions that many SMBs make:
1. "Security and regulatory compliance are important, but not as likely to affect me as they do larger, more visible companies."
Not necessarily. In industries like financial services, it is not uncommon for smaller credit unions and banks to be audited by industry examiners less often and less rigorously than larger institutions—but not if an SMB demonstrates it requires closer scrutiny. Not having appropriate information and IT policy governance and security are two primary reasons that SMBs attract the attention of examiners.
2. "I can 'get by' if service levels from the cloud for my day to day applications are not always optimal."
Some SMBs have made conscious decisions that it is ok to accept less than stellar performance when cloud access over Internet is slow, or even when support for production issues from the cloud is delayed. This doesn't work. SMBs, like everyone else, must compete in the marketplace. To do this, they need reliable business processes.
3. "The cloud can provide me with expertise my staff doesn't need to have."
Not always. Many an SMB has struggled with a new cloud-based phone or office software system—because there are on-site tune-up, support and administrative processes that the SMB's own IT personnel must still perform and be trained for.
Ultimately, these assumptions (and their resulting issues) come back to the control over their own IT that SMBs need to assert, whether or not they elect to outsource or keep their IT "at home." Some new players in the technology marketplace are starting to recognize this.
An example is the area of network-attached storage (NAS), which may SMBs have outsourced to the cloud because they see the cloud as being a cheap way of storing their data without having to invest in in-house storage technology.
Unfortunately, poor Internet connectivity to the cloud that slows business operations, the rising costs of cloud, and also concerns about off-premises data governance and security have some SMBs rethinking their strategies about storage and even outsourcing.
This is precisely the reason that companies like Egnyte and Synology are teaming to bring a hybrid solution of cloud- and home-based storage to SMBs that provides an integrated NAS/cloud backup solution to data—but with the option of locally accessing files directly from NAS.
An "at home" presence for data storage and backup is facilitated by an application that runs directly on the SMB's in-house NAS, and not solely on a virtual NAS appliance that accesses a cloud-based data backup. This gives the SMB the ability to backup and manage data both locally and in the cloud. It also provides greater redundancy for overall data backup and management. This "hybrid" combination of in-house and cloud-based management of data is compelling for SMBs, which today should be worrying about regulatory compliance, governance and security more than ever. It also capitalizes on the fact that most SMBs already have hard dollar investments in NAS, coupled with the fact that buying NAS really doesn't cost that much.
Will we see more companies providing "hybrid" cloud and in-house solutions that are orchestrated to work together in ways that provide SMBs with additional security governance and control, while still allowing them to capitalize on the value that cloud brings? Very likely, yes.
And that will be great news for SMBs—because while moving to cloud with the prospect of saving money is important, taking care of the "home front" and its safety, access and governance needs, matters, too.
Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President of Product Research and Software Development for Summit Information Systems, a computer software company; and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Technology at FSI International, a multinational manufacturing company in the semiconductor industry. Mary is a keynote speaker and has more than 1,000 articles, research studies, and technology publications in print.