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September 12, 2012

Compass Intelligences Reflects on the State of Cloud Computing for SMBs

While small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) remain the largest segment of organizations adopting cloud-based services today, questions around cloud security, compliance and cost continue to loom. It appears that as adoption continues, so does confusion.

“These concerns are very real, especially when you talk about ‘public cloud’ services that are often times used my SMBs. Think about how many small and mid-sized businesses were using Dropbox (News - Alert) this year, and there was an admitted breach to users account and file data in August 2012,” Stephanie Atkinson, the co-founder and managing partner of Compass (News - Alert) Intelligence, recently told TMCnet. “Security has to be addressed at the vendor level, as well as the HR level or the people managing the passwords that access these services.”

Gartner’s (News - Alert) findings say SMBs are adopting the cloud at rates twice as fast as larger corporations, largely because they aren’t as risk-averse or don’t have to worry as much about integration with legacy systems. In fact, SMBs are adopting cloud storage and CRM more readily than other cloud-based services, according to Atkinson.

“Cloud storage and CRM have definitely become mainstream. We have yet to see all the cloud services enter into the market,” she said. “I expect there to be a host of new cloud-based services made available to businesses of all sizes. The cloud is being used in interesting ways in specific industries including the areas of M2M, and even healthcare (more specifically cloud storage for imaging and medical records).”

Furthermore, Apple’s (News - Alert) iCloud and other cloud-based consumer apps are impacting corporate decision making around cloud adoption.

“I believe at the smaller end of the business market, it introduces a level of familiarity and comfort. As you start to move to the larger end of the business market these IT decisions are much more scrutinized around user management, upgrades, security and more,” she said. “Interestingly enough, Compass Intelligence finds that across various sizes of business, there remains a concern around security and trust with cloud services.”

Personally, Atkinson said she stores music and other personal data in the cloud using Carbonite, iCloud, and a few other personal cloud services.

The three most compelling themes around cloud, according to Atkinson, are: ease of doing business; cost savings or cost shifting; and accessibility. Cloud services are also improving communications, which is another popular area of adoption among SMBs.

“My company for one has moved multiple services to the cloud, including our server services. The look and feel of everything stays the same, but for our company we have room to grow our communications services over our server to better enable our employees,” she said. “In many cases, if we would have stuck with the hosted solution, we would not have the flexibility and cost savings to expand our capabilities internally and with our customers.”

Cloud business for SMBs means they can be nimble, strong and look just as “corporate” as larger enterprises, Atkinson added. 

“It will expand the capabilities and give you access to services that were before out of reach because of cost and access,” she said.

SMBs for the most part are using public cloud models in their implementations, with many mid-sized organization using hybrid clouds.

“I believe we will always have various models in the cloud. Mid-sized businesses may be more apt to utilize hybrid solutions as they may require more internal control and command,” Atkinson explained. “There may be specific cloud segments or categories within the market that might move solely to the cloud. We will all have to watch the adoption models take place across the business market to see how this plays out.”

Compliance is a major area businesses are challenged with when it comes to adopting cloud. Atkinson said new rules will have to be put in place to protect the company, which include security, password, storage and access rules. 

“IT managers and owners will have to think differently about their business when using cloud services,” she said.

Analysts from Compass Intelligence and Techaisle will present their independent research findings regarding adoption, challenges, and other market trends related to cloud computing for the SMB market at the upcoming Cloud4SMB conference in Austin, Texas. The session, “State of Cloud Computing – The SMB Perspective,” will be held on Oct. 2 from 12:30-1:15 p.m. at the Austin Convention Center.

“I hope to bring some perspectives from the actual SMB sector, as this is an area within our firm that we track very closely,” Atkinson said. “The end-user and decision-maker perspectives can add clarity since much of what you will be hearing will be coming from the vendor community.”

Want to learn more about cloud computing solutions geared specifically towards small to medium-sized businesses? Don’t miss the Cloud4SMB Expo, collocated with ITEXPO West 2012 taking place Oct 2-5, in Austin, TX.  Stay in touch with everything happening at Cloud4SMB Expo. Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli

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