The way in which small businesses are buying and utilizing technology is changing.
Whether updating current business applications or considering new ones, SMBs now have the option of either a traditional on-premise software deployment, a cloud-based service, or a combination of the two, referred to as “hybrid cloud” or hybrid deployments.
“Numerous business pundits are prognosticating that in the near future the majority of business applications will reside in the cloud,” says Greg Milliken, President of M-Files Inc., the developer of M-Files professional document-management software and the cloud-based document-management service M-Files Cloud Vault,
The cloud is where third-party IT specialists maintain servers, and major software applications are “leased” on a monthly basis as a service rather than licensed—often referred to as the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model.
“Many SMBs have limited IT infrastructure and staff, and in this environment the cloud often emerges as the most efficient to get up and running and to maintain, if not the most cost-effective solution,” Milliken says, “Cloud-based solutions lower the barrier of entry to powerful multiuser software tools for situations where on-the-ground network resources are unavailable.”
As an example, small firms are increasingly utilizing cloud-based document-management solutions to store practically all of their documentation in the cloud. For SMBs looking to gain greater control in their ability to manage their documentation while operating with limited IT resources, avoiding the need to invest in server hardware—and the staff to maintain it—are significant benefits.
“A move to the cloud can mean an opportunity for SMBs to put their house in order with respect to chaotic and cluttered server folders, inconsistent record-keeping, and inefficient and confusing workflow processes to make significant gains in efficiency, productivity and quality,” Milliken says.
Instead of allocating their budget on servers and other IT hardware and software as capital expenses, companies can simply pay a smaller amount per month as an operating expense. The monthly fee varies upon the number of active users, so the system easily expands or contracts with business cycles.
“As small businesses grow and their IT needs expand and existing resources become overextended, the cloud presents a compelling option,” Milliken says. “They can expand flexibly with secure cloud storage capabilities and take advantage of the SaaS model to serve new departments or larger-scale limited-time projects without having to add hardware capacity or IT staff.”
Cloud solutions allow many technical responsibilities to be outsourced. The cloud-based-solution vendor often handles the complex procedures that usually lie outside the expertise of a small business owner, such as backup and disaster recovery, long-term archiving and day-to-day maintenance.
When considering which solution-deployment method makes sense for a company, the practicalities and economics of the decision are influenced by what an organization currently has in terms of IT assets and staff.
Finally, Milliken says, “The choice to move to the cloud is significant, since it can impact policies and procedures associated with information technology, security and compliance, not just for an organization, but also for the organization’s customers and partners. Make sure to assess how technology deployment via the cloud may affect these areas before making your final decision.”
For more information, visit www.m-files.com.