We all know by now that the cloud enables business success; businesses small and large can all see great gains in efficiency, cost savings, and growth in moving certain processes to the cloud. But today, the cloud isn’t as widely adopted by small businesses as you might think. According to Emergent Research and Intuit Inc., only 37% of small businesses in the U.S. are currently fully adapted to cloud computing.
But as Joe McKendrick of Forbes notes, that number could soon change. The same study by Emergent Research and Intuit Inc. mentioned above also predicts that the number of small businesses fully adapted to cloud computing could hit 80% by the year 2020, a major improvement from its current number (though still not high enough, if you ask us).
McKendrick continues on to note that in the report, Steve King of Emergent (author of the study) observes four ways that small- to medium-sized businesses are making use of the cloud:
Plug-in players: “Small businesses will increasingly adapt to the cloud by taking advantage of specialized services that can be integrated into back-office operations. Instead of spending time and effort on the nuts-and-bolts of finance, marketing and human resources, cloud-adapted small businesses will plug into cloud-based providers who deliver comprehensive, tailored solutions, giving small business operators the ability to focus on mission-critical areas of business.”
Hives: “Cloud-adapted small businesses will increasingly be made up of individuals who share talent to form a team. These businesses will operate virtually, with employees working in different locations, and staffing levels will be increasingly flexible, rising and falling to meet project needs. For example, independent contractors will use virtual spaces to connect and market themselves. Small manufacturers and producers may share a commercial facility.”
Head-to-headers: “A growing number of cloud-adapted small businesses will compete head-to-head with major firms, using the growing number of platforms and plug-in services to reach markets once only accessible to large corporations. This is already being seen with platforms such as AirBnB, which provide individuals with the ability to reach a mass market through community infrastructure.”
Portfolioists: “Successful cloud-adapted freelancers will bring together multiple income streams to create a career portfolio. These largely will be people who start with a passion, or specific skill, and are motivated primarily by the desire to live and work according to their values, passions, and convictions. They will increasingly build personal empires in the cloud, finding previously unseen opportunities for revenue generation.”
These strategies aren't just useful for small businesses; they could (albeit likely in a slightly modified form) be useful across the enterprise as well, where different cloud use cases are popping up all over the map. No matter what size your business is, there are immense benefits to the cloud.
In our opinion, what's most surprising is that more small businesses aren't already taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the cloud. But so long as businesses keep making a push-working towards that 80% prediction and, we hope, eventual 100% adoption-we think there's a good chance that the four strategies mentioned above will only be four of many more ways that businesses can leverage the cloud to their advantage.