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Small businesses are increasingly becoming educated about the benefits cloud computing holds for their companies, according to a report from Fonality, a business communications company.

Fonality released the results of a survey conducted by Webtorials, which measured 2012 communications goals and challenges for small to medium-size businesses (SMBs).

The "2012 Small and Medium-Sized Business Communications Plans and Priorities State-of-the-Market Report" revealed a 14 percent increase in the sector’s understanding of cloud-based service options over last year; however, optimizing the total cost of operations (TCO) still remains the top priority for SMBs.

The study concluded that cloud-based unified communications (UC) could eliminate productivity shortfalls among SMBs. For example, efficiencies created by UC in a typical firm with 50 knowledge workers earning salaries ranging from $40,000 to $110,000 could recover two hours a day in productivity. The corresponding dollar amount of this time savings is valued at approximately $950,000 annually.

Survey results also indicated some ambivalence toward cloud computing education. About half (52 percent) indicated they feel they have the requisite in-house staff, time and budget to keep pace with the latest IT technology on their own. Yet 28 percent indicated they hadn’t moved to a modern telephony and message system because of lack of staff. Twenty-eight percent also said they had no technology plan because they were too busy keeping up with daily operations.

"As awareness about the benefits of cloud solutions gains momentum, these findings suggest that SMBs are beginning to connect the cost-saving potential of these services to their overall mission of reducing expenditures and minimizing TCO," said Fonality CEO David Scult. "While controlling costs by investing in new technology seems contradictory, cloud-based communications tools, in particular, can be leveraged to drive competitive differentiation and maximize operational expenses. As a result, this technology can help spur growth through enhanced productivity and efficiency."

The study found containing cost and reducing TCO remains the primary goal for SMBs in 2012, while education about the capabilities of cloud-based technology has significantly increased and is perceived as a "great equalizer" against larger competitors. Flexibility and mobility with communications solutions are gaining importance with almost one quarter of respondents, and the need to provide access to communications solutions for remote employees was cited by 85 percent of respondents.

"It is encouraging to see that SMBs are taking the initiative to learn more about cloud-based services," said Steve Taylor, editor in chief and publisher for Webtorials. "This is a needed first step for SMBs to realize the tools and solutions available to achieve the goals they stated as unattainable." 

To read the original eWeek article, click here: Small Business Knowledge of Cloud Capabilities Grows: Fonality