Little Fluffy Clouds: Part 2
Today's SME may be able to offer its services across markets, following opportunities - and becoming active on a global scale. And, it's technology that can help even micro companies - like us - achieve this. Which brings us back to our real experiences of cloud computing and how they highlight the ways in which SMEs can take advantage of new services to become more efficient and to broaden their horizons.
We are hardly a poster child for the adoption of cloud computing services, but we do use online backup for security; we do use an IP Centrex service for voice, call management and conferencing; we do use an online CRM (not very well); we do use Hosted Fax (to deal with the handful of faxes we are required to send and receive each year); and a whole host of tools that allow us to share documents and files.
We do still use Hosted Exchange for Outlook and have only dabbled with Google Apps, but having a shared server may make sense in the future; for now, it's enough that everything is backed up remotely. All of these are cloud services and all of them help us be (relatively) efficient and allow us to share information between different locations.
However, we work within the IT industry and are comparatively knowledgeable about the availability of such services - after all, many of our customers offer solutions to service providers that allow them to deliver services such as IP Centrex, Hosted Fax, Hosted Conferencing and the like. Even so, it takes quite a bit of effort to find the right solution for our needs. If the Mittelstand, of which we must be considered a part, is to capitalise on these services and to live up to the assertions made on the radio, then service providers need to be smarter in how they offer such services, how they bundle them, and how they promote them. We don't buy any of our services from traditional telcos except for mobile and broadband access; all the rest comes from OTT providers.
So, there are plenty of great cloud services available, many of which have the potential to help SMEs as well as corporations. But, if they are really to take off, service providers need to be able to present a simple means of accessing them, to promote them effectively and to ensure that even the smallest of companies recognises the advantages they will gain. At the moment, it doesn't appear that this is happening: the success of cloud services amongst smaller companies seems to be dependent on potential users actively searching for a specific service. In turn, this depends on prior knowledge that there is a solution to a problem some Mittelstand companies might not know they had. Market education is going to be essential if service providers want to tap into the vast potential of SMEs.