October saw a slew of announcements about Microsoft’s plans for migration to the cloud. The deluge included announcements of new servers on which they’ll run their SharePoint and SkyDrive solutions, sales on Azure, and improvements to their SaaS (Software as a Service) lines. All of these developments speak clearly to their intention of changing their company and the world with a cloud revolution.
A move to the cloud means that the way SMBs are run is about to change. What can business owners expect?
Changes to Finances
Microsoft is making a big push for initiatives that will draw business into the cloud, as shown by their focus on SaaS in this new lineup. ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software have helped thousands of companies to streamline their workflow. But a fully cloud-enabled business may require a whole new process of software development to stay ahead of the game. This can mean another round of investments to new IT training and perhaps a software development company, which might mean having to restructure the 2014 budget in order to make sure you have the best talent on your side.
The good news is that there are long term monetary benefits to moving to the cloud. While there might be an initial period of unrest, cloud tech (especially ERP) means that you can settle into a monthly subscription fee instead of needing to update your licenses or replace your system as a whole. If you find yourself no longer needing a particular service, or needing to expand one, you can change your service easily instead of needing to do an overhaul. Interaction with your cloud provider also means that you can outsource some of your IT duties to your cloud provider, so your IT department can focus on in-house maintenance.
Concerns of Security
Security of your data, and that of your clients, is paramount when you’re trying to grow a company. One misstep in the handling of sensitive information can destroy the trust your customers have in you and put a black mark on your brand name. So how is it at all a good thing to send your data into the ether?
The truth is that it might not be a good thing. Tech industry titans like Sony have had massive problems with hackers and unsafe data that have caused mass consumer distrust. If Sony is having difficulties securing data, how can an SMB hope to avoid the same problems? The good news is that there will be more established forms of precautions in place because corporations like Sony have blazed a trail- we can learn from their mistakes. The bad news is that you have to put a lot of trust into Microsoft’s hands. That can be hard when you’re literally betting your livelihood. But great advances in business often require risk, so weigh your options before deciding for or against cloud data storage.
Microsoft certainly believes that this is the way of the future. And there’s little reason to doubt that cloud technology will become a staple in the business environment. As smartphones, tablets, and other app-driven devices become crucial to the success of companies, it’s safe to assume that almost all functions of a healthy company will come to be mobile.
There are pockets of resistance to the idea of a cloud-centric world, perhaps best summed up by the struggles Microsoft has been having with the gaming console the Xbox One. Not everyone is excited about the idea of being so dependent on an internet connection, especially when connectivity is so spotty in so many areas of the country. This is exactly what some business owners are worried about for their tech, as well. But the trade-off is that you will be able to conduct your business from anywhere and a power surge in the office won’t mean you’ve lost any fried data.
Overall it seems inevitable that everyone will need to leap to the cloud at some point. You can choose to lead the charge with these first pioneers or to wait and see how it goes, but Microsoft has put a lot of eggs in this basket, so you can bet they’ll make it the obvious choice sooner rather than later.
Adam Kinsey is a tech consultant and commentator. His mission is to guide companies towards smarter use of tech resources and to make tech jargon accessible to everyone.