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Staying Competitive With Cloud Computing

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When it comes to 'the cloud', defining specifics can be challenging as there are many nuances in terms of how technology services can be delivered, but one thing remains consistent in that organizations can choose to leverage the power of cloud computing in order to move their business forward or can surrender market to more nimble competitors.

The reality of today's market is many of your competitors will be new entrants leveraging new ways and approaches to doing business enabled by IT.  More importantly, if you aren't prepared to address the cloud computing wave with your clients, you'll soon be left behind.

The last few years have seen cloud computing gain tremendous traction in small and medium sized businesses. According to the Microsoft SMB Business in the Cloud 2012 report, many SMBs around the world are looking to boost their purchase of cloud solutions in the next five years.  Looking forward, 50 percent of SMBs say cloud computing is going to become more important for their operations, and 58 percent consider that operating in the cloud can make them more competitive.  

Although anyone can purchase cloud solutions, without a clear understanding of how they will assist the business strategy and without proper planning, the service will fail to add considerable value.  From a competitive standpoint, one must develop an enterprise cloud adoption strategy that enables them to remain nimble and grow their business.    

SMBs that want to maintain their size in terms of internal resources, but want to become more profitable are seeking cost-effective, efficient solutions that match their needs for predictability and low overhead cost, which makes a strong case for cloud services to serve these needs.  

So just how can cloud computing deliver the competitive edge you need?  Here, I outline the top four areas in which cloud solutions are enabling organizations to outperform their competitors.  

Reduced Costs

Most cloud solutions require very little up-front investment.  No more up front hardware and software investment.  The whole model of cloud services is subscription based; you rent the software and/or hardware you need on a monthly basis.  Software licensing and all upgrades are included meaning no upgrades are required, no maintenance demands on your shoulders, and limited support services are required from internal IT.

Reduced Focus on IT Issues = More Focus on Your Business 

In a nutshell, companies who provide cloud services focus solely on building, maintaining and monitoring their datacenters, which means you don't have to.  Their team is focused on keeping your organization's technology up and running so you can focus on your business, your mission, your goals.  Cloud providers invest a great deal of time and money into keeping their datacenters maintained; that type of focus would be very expensive and time consuming if done to the same level internally.  

Flexibility

Typically most applications are designed to be delivered and accessed within a single building or campus.  Offsite access is typically expensive and requires maintenance.  Public cloud solutions only require a browser and internet connection to access the application remotely.  This allows any employee to access their applications regardless of their location, maintaining the pace of business and remaining accessible to customers and clients.  

Enterprise IT for SMBs 

We've seen cloud computing help organizations that historically have had little access to cutting-edge technology and lack the skills and scale for building out in-house infrastructure.  Whether through infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS), or software-as-a-service (SaaS), cloud providers can offer SMBs a wide array of options to enhance their business with whatever sort of IT is the best fit.  

By implementing cloud solutions, internal IT can be afforded the opportunity to focus on strategies that add greater value to the business.  Key business decision makers who are able to translate how cloud computing can improve business performance can further position themselves as 'true' business leaders.  

If you are like many businesses, you are still trying to figure out how the cloud fits into your world.  It's important to find an expert in the technology field with whom you can partner with to give you guidance and trusted advice to match the appropriate technologies to your business goals.  

Ken Klika is the director of networking services at BCG Systems. Inc., an Akron, Ohio-based technology consultancy and value added reseller of Microsoft Dynamics GP, CRM; Sage 500 ERP; and NetSuite. He has over 25 years of experience in business and technology consutancy. In his curent role Klika serves as a specialist in IT strategy for small and medium-sized businesses.

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