Small Business Embracing Cloud Computing, Mobility
A third of small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have already adopted the cloud in one way or another, and another 35 percent are expected to invest in cloud computing technology in some form in the next year, according to the latest research from CompTIA.
As technology becomes more affordable and constrained budgets begin to open up, the number of SMBs using the cloud is going to double in the next year, according to CompTIA's Third Annual Small and Medium Business Technology Adoptions Trends survey and report. The CompTIA survey of 602 IT and business professionals in SMBs in the U.S., found that the most heavily used cloud application among SMBs is storage/backup, with 71 percent of cloud-savvy SMBs using storage and backup cloud solutions. Email (62 percent) is the second most adopted cloud technology among SMBs, followed by document management (59 percent), collaboration (56 percent) and customer relationship management (53 percent).
The good news for cloud services providers is that most SMBs have been quite happy with the cloud computing services and applications they use. In fact, 92 percent of the businesses that said they use some form of cloud computing reported either a positive or very positive experience. Even better, 97 percent reported their move to the cloud produced the desired results, including reduced costs and increased flexibility.
Cloud computing isn’t the only upwards trend within the SMB community, though. The CompTIA survey found that SMBs are looking to increase their technology investments within the next year to improve customer interactions, mobility options and operational efficiencies.
Spending is going to increase, with 70 percent of SMBs expecting to increase their technology spend over the next 12 months, and a third expect to increase their IT budgets by 10 percent or more. Although CompTIA noted the increased budgets could reflect large, one-time purchases, it’s still a good sign. The average IT budget increase is expected to be slightly over 5 percent.
"Technology is more accessible, more affordable and more available to SMBs than ever before," said Seth Robinson, director of technology analysis at CompTIA, in a statement. "SMBs may not have an abundance of capital to invest, so they have to make every dollar count. But the majority is willing to spend money on new technologies, especially solutions that give them capabilities on par with a larger enterprise. Technology plays an integral role in the life of a small business."
What’s driving this increase in technology spending? Mobility is a clear trend uncovered by the survey, which found that 42 percent of medium-sized businesses (100-499 employees) already have mobile technologies in place for greater productivity, including tablets, laptops and smartphones. Another 33 percent plan to deploy mobile technologies and devices in the next year.
Small businesses (10-99 employees) are lagging behind a bit, with 25 percent already using mobile solutions and 43 percent planning to embrace mobility in the next year. Micro businesses (one to nine employees) are also expecting to take a big leap forward in the use of mobile solutions. Currently, 12 percent of micro businesses use mobility solutions, and another 22 percent plan to adopt such solutions in the next 12 months.
CompTIA noted the trend towards mobility solutions within the SMB market is similar to the trend within the enterprise. Another trend affecting both enterprises and SMBs is the consumerization of IT in the corporate environment. Of the SMBs surveyed, 85 percent said their employees use personal technology devices for work purposes, with laptops and smartphones being the most popular consumer devices proliferating within the business world. However, 38 percent of SMBs have employees that use personal tablets for business purposes.
Although there are convenience and productivity benefits to the consumerization of IT, a large majority (82 percent) of SMBs feel the trend is cause for concern.
"The top concerns are security-related, whether in the form of a virus being brought into the company network or some breach related to customer data," Robinson said. "The time supporting these devices is also cited as a concern, whether it’s time spent by IT staff or by individual employees attempting to access corporate networks and applications."
To mitigate risks, SMBs may purchase mobile devices their employees can use to bring the technology under corporate IT control, according to CompTIA.