Cloud services for SMBs
Cloud technologies offer powerful and flexible services. An SMB that wants to dominate in its sphere should not miss the chance to take advantage of these services. Like all new things, the SaaS-services sphere raises questions. Let us explore what advantages cloud applications usage can give SMBs.
Why are cloud services so popular?
According to Gartner, in 2016 the volume of the cloud service market was $204 billion. That is why many software manufacturers pay more attention to program development which can be started remotely.
Worldwide public cloud services forecast: market value (billions of US $). Source.
Here are some examples. The OneDrive service by Microsoft allows you not only to keep your files in the cloud but also to open them with the help of MS Word and Excel from any place where there is an Internet connection. This greatly simplifies working with documents.
SaaS-services can be used by any company. They are especially popular with startups – prices are lower, and functions differ very little from ordinary applications. The cost of service rent keeps going down as virtualization technology improves, so even a small team of three to four people can create their own cloud service.
Before SaaS-services appeared, applications could not be started remotely. Now the situation is totally different: it would be difficult to find a program for which a version in a cloud does not exist.
That is why you should not worry that SaaS-services will not be able to satisfy SMB needs. They not only offer a variety of effective solutions nowadays, but they will continue to expand, offering more opportunities.
Preferences for cloud services
Cloud applications can be used in different ways. They help entrepreneurs to lead their business. Some of the opportunities will be useful in everyday usage of SaaS-services; other ones will be irreplaceable for the company.
- Cloud apps do not depend on the equipment. More often, for access to this application, it is enough to use a browser; it would possibly need more complicated solutions like remote desktops to install a thin client. In any case, this software can be started even with weak hardware, and this is the economy on purchase and upgrade of equipment.
- Access to the application from any device. It logically follows from the first point, that only browser and Internet connection are needed for program startup. The majority of SaaS-services suppliers offer mobile applications as well. As all data is kept on a remote server, it is possible to work with software via a device with any operating system: Windows, Linux, Android or iOS.
- Choice of a service plan. Usually, once a month, rent is paid for usage of cloud services. You should not rush out and buy an expensive license. Besides, you can choose what is appropriate for your business service plan. It saves a lot of small company resources, and, in this way, allows you to implement powerful and effective solution with a favorable price.
- Fast scaling. You can change your service plan to a more expensive one with advanced functions. You should not be concerned that in the case of fast growth of your business, cloud applications would not be able to satisfy your business needs.
Cloud apps disadvantages
However, you should not reject standalone solutions and completely transfer the office to the cloud. Remote application launch has some disadvantages, which you must keep in mind.
- You need an adequate Internet connection. In case of electricity or connection loss, the workflow stops and you will fail to get access to the program, even if there are working laptops. Besides, if the Internet channel is unstable or the server with the application is somewhere on another continent, there may be a delay due to high ping.
- Enterprise files are stored on a remote server. This leads to the following problems. Firstly, if a problem occurs, you cannot solve it yourself – you will have to rely on the technical support of the service provider. A very revealing example is GitLab, which accidentally almost deleted their entire database from the “battle” server.Secondly, remote file storage can be unsafe. Reliable SaaS-services usually guarantee confidentiality, and they are always ready to compensate the damage incurred in case of leakage. But, nevertheless, there is a possibility that employees of a foreign company may get access to your data, so the human factor also must be kept in mind. In addition, a “merged” database of customers or purchases can cost much more than the compensation suggested for the incident.
Some cloud software vendors offer to solve this problem by using applications on the client’s servers. However, most often for this you need to buy a license upfront; this negates all the advantages of SaaS.
- It’s not always easy to find a suitable cloud alternative. No matter how fast the SaaS industry has developed, it cannot cover all areas of activity. Some specialized programs simply do not have a version for remote starting. For example, the leader among programs for video editing, Adobe Premiere, does not have a cloud alternative. Graphical editors can be launched in the browser; however, functionally they cannot replace Adobe Photoshop. In such fields there is only one way – to buy a license.
Best SaaS-services for SMBs
Before the invention of SaaS-services, applications could not be started remotely. Now the situation has changed: it would be difficult to find a program for which there is no version in the cloud. This makes the work of an SMB much simpler. Business people can use new opportunities for a low cost. And there are many of these.
The international research agency IKS Consulting has analyzed which SaaS-services were the most popular by the year 2015.
- Accounting software – 54%. The most well-known representatives are Microsoft Dynamics, QuickBooks, and Zoho Books.
- Telephony and virtual PBXs – 16.4%. Represented by such developments as Nextiva, Vonage, and RingCentral.
- Office programs – 12.5%. Obviously, the leaders here are Microsoft Office 365 and Google Docs.
- ERP-systems – 6.2%. Represented by Oracle NetSuite, FinancialForce, and Plex.
- CRM-systems – 4.8%. The most well-known developments are by Pipedrive, Samanage, and Marketing 360.
- Business Intelligence Systems – 2.3%. The most popular services are IBM Cloud Analytics, Oracle BI, and Microsoft Power BI.
- Site and CMS designers – 1.3%. Here field leaders are WIX, Bluehost, and Squarespace.
- Messengers and video conferencing programs – 0.9%. Represented by Microsoft Exchange Online, Zoho, and WebEx.
- Analysis of sales and social factors, conducting surveys – 0.6%. Oracle Marketing Cloud, Salesforce, and SurveyMonkey.
Of course, there are many more cloud services than were mentioned in the study. It is almost impossible to consider all of them. Therefore, we recommend you to visit The 35 Best Cloud Services for SMBs of 2016 page and to learn about lots of ideas on using SaaS-services to solve the basic issues of your business. There you can learn about the tariffs and prices of these services in detail.
Some words about the future
Akamai Technologies predicts that if the growth rate of the Internet continues, then by 2020, an average connection speed of the net in countries like South Korea, Norway and Sweden will reach more than 50 Mbit/s. Then even a small business will be able to afford reliable operation of SaaS-services by connecting its office to the Internet, supplied by two providers.
Servers’ remoteness problems will not be so acute. In the figure below, you can see the location of cloud computing centers around the world. It shows that the US, Europe, and Asia do not suffer from lack of data centers, and their quantity is to be increased.
Cloud servers location map. Source: Data Center Map.
The number of SaaS-services for the last few years shows a steady growth.IKS Consulting found that the medium growth rate of the cloud services market is 20%. By 2020, the volume of applications in the cloud will have increased more than two times, compared to 2015.
SaaS market dynamics. Source: cnews.ru.
The security issue is not as clear. Legislation in the area is developing, but not as quickly as is desirable. Last year, the European Parliament adopted a new law on the processing of personal data, which obliged it to get more precise control over its protection and transparency.
The problem is that this is the first legislative act in the field of personal data since 1995. If the laws continue to be adopted this fast, the norms prescribed in the new document are likely to become obsolete soon.
About five years ago, the fast growth of SaaS-services organized the revolution in the software world. And this process is still not complete. Cloud services continue to develop, and their usage in business is profitable:
- It is necessary for work applications and can be established simply in one day.
- It is easy to organize remote offices for employees and save money on office lease and equipment purchase.
- Monthly payments and choice of service plans allow the finding of a flexible way to set up the necessary services and not to overpay for unnecessary functions.
SMBs that want to be at the top of their game should seize the opportunity to try out all the advantages that cloud services offer.