Friday, November 21, 2008

The Cloud and Small to Medium sized businesses

Following on from a previous post (Why not use the cloud?), I have been talking to a number of people and organisations recently about the potential uptake by SME's (Small to Medium sized Enterprises) of Cloud Computing services and products.

There seems to be general agreement that the more services and products a company utilises from the Cloud the lower the cost of IT. What seems to be a bit uncertain are the adoption timelines, concerns over loss of control, security concerns and many other issues often come up. In most cases these seem to be put up as reasons not to embrace the cloud. In many cases this probably boils down to a fear of change and lack of knowledge about this new approach to IT delivery. These are similar anxieties to when the world started to switch from mainframes / mini computers to PC's. Fear of the unknown. Inability to understand this new emerging world. But we do know the benefits the companies who embraced that emerging world achieved. This time will be no different, just like every other major era in the evolution of the information technology business. The change is going to happen (is happening) and the only question is what you are going to do about it...

When you think about it, you would never dream of building your own power station for your company, just plug into the wall and get power on demand. Back at the beginning of the industrial revolution companies DID have to build their own power plants but over time the economic incentive to shift to the power grid was just too compelling and allowed for the creation of so many other complimentary products nobody could have conceived before (e.g. kitchen appliances, ubiquitous lighting etc). Basically everything changed with the power grid. A similar change is happening in the world of delivering technology services.

SME's probably have an advantage over their larger competitors this time around. The larger organisations have probably invested millions (maybe billions) over the years in proprietary systems and infrastructures. Are they going to throw this away and move everything to the Cloud - no. They will probably make the switch over many years. SME's usually don't have such extensive IT infrastructures or proprietary applications. For the more progressive SME's they can get a strategic advantage right now by starting the process of switching to the Cloud for IT service delivery.

The Cloud = lower costs + more flexibility + more automation + better service

Will the switchover be instant and pain free? Eh, no. Some services will be easier than others to switch over but SME's need to get started. I would argue that right now 80% of an organisations IT services could be delivered via the Cloud. It may not be as seamless as everybody would like but there are many companies working extremely hard to make things work better. There are also many companies sprouting up who can help guide you through this transition (including my own - ZeroTouch IT).

As an example, compare the ease of use and flexibility of access between your typical office e-mail application and your personal e-mail (which for most people is delivered via the cloud by Google, Yahoo, Microsoft etc). No comparison. Plus, you don't have to wait until you switch everything over before the benefits start to kick in.

So why wait? The end results are too compelling for most organisations (particularly SME's) to ignore but you need to make some changes. No changes, no results.