When information technology professionals tell their small business clients about cloud computing, it often sounds even more complicated, risky and expensive than in-house networks and business Internet access once did. Business owners are faced with discussions about hosted or SaaS or hybrid and ask what will I do when the Internet goes out? and how secure is it? and will it work with my iPad?… and often get one of two responses from their local IT guy:
- The cloud is just a way for software companies to make more money. I can keep your IT running better in your office and save you a lot.
- If you move to the cloud you have to do a lot to make sure it is secure, and you won’t be able to run all your applications (but we’ll back up your data to the cloud so it’s safe).
Now, you can’t really blame the local IT guy for being a little bit wary of some cloud solution offerings because these local IT guys really are (in many cases) trying to operate with the best interest of their client in mind. It’s just unfortunate that sometimes a lack of information causes them to revert to their comfort zone, which is selling servers and performing on-site installation and break-fix work. What information are these folks lacking? An understanding of the various options and capabilities available with hosting services and cloud solutions, and how the IT provider can continue to be the advocate and IT manager for their clients even as those clients move their primary information technology to the cloud.
For many years business owners have relied upon their trusted local IT professional to help them find solutions to various business problems. Answering questions and helping procure and implement computers and networked systems, software applications, backup solutions and more, the IT professional serving a small business customer base has necessarily become the one-stop-shop for everything related to computers. Smaller IT service companies often rely upon regular sales of server equipment and network installations to pay their bills. It’s no wonder that these companies have a hard time accepting hosted solution models, as they see their revenue potentials dwindling as fewer servers and networks are sold to small businesses.
The interesting trend being viewed these days is that more business owners are looking beyond their IT professional to find solutions to the problems they deem as high priority for business technology: mobility and remote access. It is not necessarily that the self-service technology model makes more sense for small businesses (businesses can still benefit tremendously by getting training and implementation support from their local IT guy), but simple and affordable cloud solutions have addressed many of the small business IT challenges that were previously big revenue streams for local IT service providers. Savvy business owners will find solutions that work for them, and will look beyond their immediate advisors if those advisors aren’t providing the right answers.
When a small business owner talks about mobility and is looking for answers to the remote access question, they are not thinking about GoToMyPC or other remote control technologies and simply connecting to an office PC. Small business owners today are talking about central access to information at any time from any place and with whatever computing device they happen to have available at the time. For a small business owner, the benefit of the cloud is a largely emotional benefit – being able to stay in touch with the business at all times. The real benefits may be improved security, simplified management of information resources and pay-as-you-go pricing for business applications, but these are often value statements which fall on deaf ears just as the cost/benefits of upgrading the server every 2 years did.
It is tempting to focus on logic and reason, discussing the tangible benefits of any business information technology model or approach rather than how it makes us “feel”. Productivity metrics, best practices in security, total cost of ownership… these are all the right areas to pay attention to when selecting any technology solution for a business. But really, when it comes to selecting technology for small businesses, the business owner is in the driver’s seat, and that owner wants one thing: to see what’s going on all the time.
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