Feb 18 2022

How SMBs Can Use the Cloud to Harness Data

The challenge small businesses might face in taking a data-driven approach isn’t creating the data, it’s finding the right way to manage it.

Big businesses have long benefited from data tools to help to turn inputs into action. In the early months of the pandemic, for example, many retailers used their access to customer data to optimize their strategies and offerings for the new business climate, working around the sudden challenges to their supply chain.

While those benefits are great, small businesses may feel a bit disheartened by all the big business success stories. It might seem like you need to have significant resources to truly realize the benefits that others are reaping.

But there are advantages small businesses can capitalize on, thanks in large part to cloud technology. Small businesses are well equipped to use public cloud resources at even higher rates than large businesses. A Flexera report from last year found that 69 percent of small business workloads and 67 percent of small business data are expected to be on cloud platforms within the next 12 months.

Where to Start with Data, and Where to Go

Small businesses are not lacking data. The real challenge isn’t acquiring the data, but properly capturing, managing and organizing that data so that it’s actionable.

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The bottleneck may not be the technology itself — or even the price tag, as cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure make it possible to build scalable data analysis at a reasonable cost. The roadblock is often a lack of experience, as smaller IT teams may not have a data specialist on staff. If you don’t have in-house expertise, it becomes important to lean on external partners to help close the gap. The key to success is building a strategy, especially if you don’t already have the internal capabilities.

For small businesses trying to get a grasp of their data, a good place to start might be through the use of business intelligence tools, such as Microsoft Power BI and Tableau, which can help with the analytical part of the equation and can be a great entry-level approach for a small company looking to dip its toes into data analysis.

But if the eventual goal is digital transformation, analytics alone will get you only so far. Ultimately, you want to connect your data with your business strategy. You may not have all the answers, and that’s OK.

Watch Out for These Potential Data Pitfalls

When small businesses try to leap into cloud-based data analysis, issues with process may emerge. For example, when you store information offsite, you may introduce new risks.

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One of the biggest ones is governance. When it comes to data, issues such as privacy, policy, and procedure come into play, and when you’re new to working with data, there’s a danger that those things might take a back seat — especially if you’re moving to the cloud.

There are a lot of questions you need to ask when building your data-driven disciplines, such as what level of access you give your employees and what technology you use to manage your audit trail. Your governance approach needs to be just as strong as your data capabilities, because you need to build with security in mind.

With complex questions like these, a partner like CDW Amplified™ Solutions can definitely help.

The challenges may not be the same for all small businesses, because each small business is on its own journey. Sometimes, when we partner with small businesses on projects, they have most of the steps in place but need just a little help getting across the finish line. Others may need a completely fresh start. But even if the dynamics are different, the goals remain the same: to maximize your data management capabilities, with security and safety in mind.

Ultimately, the best way to build your path to digital transformation is to get started. After all, you won’t know what you can do with your data until you begin.

This article is part of BizTech's AgilITy blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #SmallBizIT hashtag.

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