Enterprise level companies discovered the “cloud” 3-5 years ago for lowering costs, reducing head count and enabling virtual teams to work together more cohesively in and outside the company.
Today vendors like Dropbox have truly democratized the costs of storing and sharing information in the cloud. We couldn’t run our business without it. What’s the cloud? It’s a collection of servers that you access via an internet connection to store and retrieve data.
Five Reasons Why Most Small to Medium Sized Businesses are Scared of using the Cloud
- Don’t really have an idea of what the cloud is and the impact on their business.
- Once they understand it means moving “stuff” to distant Servers are scared to death of being hacked or losing data (see three below!).
- Is my data safe, secure and readily accessible?
- Are worried about adding another layer of complexity to their business.
- Eyes glaze over when marketing tech geeks start throwing around confusing buzz words.
Business Rules Define Cloud Usage
We tell our clients there are 3-4 simple steps to moving their business. Most do not have an IT staff in house and are not really sure what questions to ask.
Start with basics: what are your business needs, what are you trying to accomplish with cloud outsourcing, do you want to lower costs, use new types of applications, foster collaboration internally and externally or get access to enterprise level apps?
According to most recent surveys about the cloud, the greatest barriers to entry for most businesses are security, performance and integration with how they run their company. What’s in-house, outsourced, how do we get our staff and management team up to speed, costs savings, etc.
Why Your Business Should Embrace the Cloud
- Most businesses are in the cloud already with web site hosting, GMail usage, Skype or LinkedIn. Deeper cloud integration is just a step in the right direction.
- The cloud offers much better security, with lower associated costs and much less hassle. Your getting access to IT Services at a low monthly cost vs. staffing up for IT and Technology management.
- If done right, your business will get access to world class infrastructure from a vendor like RackSpace for a few hundred dollars a month or Amazon’s EC2 Services for $5-10. a month.
- The cloud makes a small business smarter and better connected by driving collaboration with the staff, customers and vendors in the cloud using basic chat functions or virtual conferencing via Skype or Join.Me.
- Access to tens of thousands of web applications that are low cost/high value via SaaS (“Software as a Service”) vendors and products.
- Greatly enhanced CRM (‘Customer Relationship Management”) insights, customer reach and an awareness in real time of what’s going on us social connectivity and or via stellar real time apps like Mixpanel.
Your bottom line benefits for integrating the cloud with your business: accessing Infrastructure as a Service with a shared cost structure, improving your web presence and getting access to more business applications you weren’t even aware of, lower cost/high value hosted communications and improved collaboration with your staff, customers and distribution channels.
Mainstream Cloud Apps
Dropbox: best way to share content in the cloud.
LinkedIn: personal profile and business: high visibility & drives brand awareness
ShareThis - the absolute best app for driving social engagement and more
Skype - best way to communicate and collaborate in the cloud
Google Apps Productivity Suite: GMail, Calendar, Drive, Hangouts, Vault
Join.Me - Skype competitor: virtual meeting and collaboration
DocuSign - digital contract or asset management
Draw.Io - powerful drawing and diagram app that integrates with Google Docs, Dropbox or a Device
Box - built in collaboration and storage for any business
Customer Relationship Marketing (CRM)
Insightly - stellar CRM apps for small business, with Office integration and more; low cost ($7. per month) and high value
SalesForce - the defacto market leader in all CRM and “social enterprise” tools
Sugar CRM - biggest SalesForce competitor, somewhat better pricing tiers and more SMB focus
Jive Software - hybrid CRM and “social business” platform
InfusionSoft - morphed from pure play automated lead tracking platform: now incorporating CRM
Marketo - shifting focus from content marketing to lead analysis with CRM functionality
Boomerang - best productivity app for GMail: extending functionality
Rapportive - build rich contacts right within GMail
Scrubby - cool app for organizing and updating your contacts
Xobni - automatically builds an address book based on emails and much more (also supports: Smartphones and Outlook)
Sanebox - prioritize your emails and gives you a summary for the rest, adding order to Gmail
Asana - stellar way for teams to work in a collaborative manner
HackPad - lighting fast way to collaborate and share information
Box - market leader along with Dropbox - stellar team collaboration & interaction, revision tracking & more
DeskAway - virtual collaboration, web based & no downloads
Huddle - file collaboration, file sharing via any device
Trello - easy to use interface with solid collaboration capabilities for projects
Five Key Metrics for Cloud Implementation
- Ask your exec staff, customers and channel partners how you can “collaborate” better and seamlessly. The “right questions” matter.
- Forget big ideas: start small and move forward in iterative steps and map these steps to some kind of a plan.
- Failure may be the order of the day initially; your going to make some mistakes in implementation and deployment. Hang tough and press on.
- Don’t fall in love with the technology: productivity is key, although may be hard to measure initially.
- Security concerns are a non starter for 99.9% of the vendors and services you will assess.