Small businesses are becoming more self-reliant and cloud-dependent when it comes to their IT needs, new research finds.
The National Small Business Association (NSBA) recently released its 2013 Small Business Technology Survey, which revealed that more business owners are managing their own IT today than in 2010.
According to the survey, 24 percent of small business owners pay an outside firm for IT support, compared to 36 percent in 2010. Furthermore, 40 percent of small business owners today say they handle their own IT solutions, whereas only 25 percent did so in 2010.
As a result, there is a growing reliance on cloud computing, mobile devices and high-speed Internet. For instance, the number of small businesses using the cloud jumped from a mere 5 percent in 2010 to a whopping 43 percent in 2013.
"The cloud not only brings a cost-effective solution to small businesses, but it also comes standard with built-in IT expertise," said Siamak Farah, CEO of InfoStreet, a cloud app provider that offers SkyDesktop, a free cloud desktop.
The survey also revealed the top three IT issues facing small firms today: upgrade costs, security problems and the time to fix IT problems. And while 94 percent of small business owners say they are very or somewhat concerned about cybersecurity, nearly half of small businesses stated that they have been victims of a cyberattack.
For small businesses managing their own IT, moving to the cloud addresses these issues, as cloud services provide infrastructure, updates and security protection, Farah said.
"The cloud is famous for 'anytime, anywhere access on any device,'" Farah said. "While, today, this access is a lifeline for many small businesses, the cloud also brings a ton more to small businesses, enabling them to flourish and compete with the big names."
To assist small business with migrating to the cloud, Farah offered the following five guidelines:
1. Create a requirement list.
Create a list of what IT-dependent tasks your business does today and what you are planning to do in the future. Then, you will know what type of cloud-based apps you will need. If you need more than one cloud app, it may be best for you to use a cloud platform that will consolidate everything you need into one place. For example, you may want to make it a point to invest in a platform that offers your accounting app, your task software and your customer relationship management (CRM) programinto one location, with one login.
2. Be honest with yourself about your requirements.
Create a realistic checklist of what you need from your system. Small business owners all dream big. Being truthful here will help make sure you don't miss a giant opportunity for reasons that may not be material.
Security is one example. Many business owners claim they are not sure if their data is secure. The truth is that the cloud is substantially more secure than the servers sitting in your office. Cloud providers have invested heavily in securing their data centers and developing security protocols. No small business can begin to afford that level of security. The extra layers of security these providers have implemented will prevent covert attacks on your information and data. Relying on the security of the cloud is akin to protecting your money behind a huge vault door versus storing it in a drawer in your office. It's not possible to guard that drawer day and night while also running your business. Your cloud provider, however, protects and safeguards your company's vital information with top-of-the-line firewalls and antivirus software.
3. Try it before you buy it.
Almost all cloud solutions, and any solution worth its salt, has a no-cost trial period. This allows you to test out various solutions and ensure that they are a perfect fit for your company. The good news is that there are a large number of cloud solutions available, and you have a choice. If you feel that too many choices will be daunting, you can use an app market that provides you with a selection of best-of-breed choices.
4. Pass the benefits on to your employees.
As with any solution, if you don't have your employees' buy-in, they will not fully embrace the change. The cloud provides so many benefits to the end user that all users are delighted to use it. Enable your employees to take advantage of those benefits. For instance, with the cloud, the apps that your employees use and the results these apps produce are the same regardless of what device people are using. So, let your employees choose devices they are most comfortable with. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is spreading wildly throughout corporate America, since companies are benefiting from the better results users produce by working on their favorite devices. There is no reason you should not get the same benefit.
5. Maximize your future
Now that you have access to the great democratizer — the cloud — revisit your plans and dreams to see what is available to you that you had shelved in the past due to lack of resources. You could not have two locations since syncing the inventory and point-of-sale systems was too cumbersome? Well, there is a cloud solution for that. Could not expand since staff scheduling and HR got in the way? Well, there is a cloud solution for that, too. You get the picture! The cloud is there to support you in your endeavors.