Jun 09 2015

Tackling Small Business Cloud Adoption Challenges

Cloud computing has surpassed critical mass, but many small businesses still wrangle with what functions to migrate and how to measure the benefits.

Cloud computing has grown up, and its adoption is sweeping across the SMB community. It’s no longer a question of why or how most businesses will adopt cloud, but when. By one estimate, nearly 80 percent of U.S. small businesses will have fully adopted cloud technology by 2020, according to Emergent Research and Intuit.

But implementing a cloud strategy shouldn’t hinge on whether everyone is moving to the cloud. Cloud technology needs to make sense for your business and provide real value for your stakeholders.

In CDW’s latest research, “Cloud 401: Navigating Advanced Topics in Cloud Computing,” we looked at the successes and struggles organizations experienced as they deployed data, storage, email and other application services in the cloud.

Making Cloud Work

Through all the noise around cloud, it’s sometimes hard to understand and respond to the challenges in adopting the technology.

In CDW’s Cloud 401 Report, IT decision-makers identified migration and integration issues as top hurdles, with 59 percent saying they would make more use of cloud services, if not for the complexity they perceive around enabling and integrating cloud workloads with legacy systems.

This challenge is important to note because a main benefit of cloud is to make integration opportunities easier. Businesses can use cloud services to integrate back-office functions such as sales, marketing and human resources. By doing so, they can focus more on core business needs and less on administrative tasks.

Clearly, this is where the IT team can provide the most help in defining cloud alternatives and migration strategies. Our survey found that in the average cloud-subscribing organization, IT selects and manages 73 percent of cloud services, so the missions of enablement and integration are more critical than ever.

Calculating the Benefits

As attractive as a cloud-enabled enterprise may seem, proving its value to the business is even more appealing. For SMBs, one of the main benefits of cloud can be cost savings. Cloud’s pay-as-you-go model lets businesses decrease upfront spending on infrastructure while providing scalability and control over other costs, such as power, maintenance and upgrades.

SMB leaders have said that evaluating cloud costs and benefits can be tricky, though. In the survey, only 25 percent of respondents said they sourced financial models for cloud internally, and only 42 percent of those reports ultimately proved accurate. Nearly 30 percent of companies used external reports, rating their accuracy at 55 percent.

The potential value of cloud is clear, but charting the right path requires spending time early on identifying viable services for migration, and then evaluating costs not just against more traditional computing approaches but also against total cost of operations and likely benefits.

That means looking at risks and factoring in some less-than-quantifiable data, such as time recouped by the IT team to focus more on unique business needs rather than managing and patching productivity systems.

Cloud computing offers businesses opportunities. The trick is figuring out the best options for your specific environment.

Alex Kalina

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