For decades the cost of computer hardware and software put small and medium businesses (SMBs) at a competitive disadvantage as they sought to expand globally. With the adoption of cloud computing, there is now a platform which allows SMBs to access hardware and software on a pay-as-you-go basis, which is leveling the playing field and providing opportunities for SMBs to complete on a global stage, while providing companies a strong rate of return on their investment. This has now provided the power to differentiate SMBs in the marketplace without a significant upfront cost and is altering the business world’s established order. These companies can now tap into new markets, being able to turn things on and off, as demands fluctuate. They also have access to collaboration tools that enable them to operate across national and international boundaries in ways that only large companies could afford. Software as a Service (SaaS) provides a high level of system availability and the opportunity to try the environment without too much time, investment and effort.
Being able to expand a company’s IT infrastructure quickly and create agility through tapping into precisely what functions are needed, allows CEOs of smaller companies to take risks on a global stage, they might not have contemplated in the past.
The United States and Western Europe have been at the forefront of SMB’s adoption of cloud technology, but Asia is still catching up. Many Asian companies are suppliers to large Western companies and these companies insist on the businesses within their Supply Chain operating via the cloud. Asian subsidiaries are also creating locally based cloud operations that link to their parent company’s global cloud-based systems. These smaller operations may not justify the infrastructure due to lack of complexity or scale of requirements, and Cloud can be a cost effective solution for these satellite locations.
Operational efficiency can also drive rapid adoption of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), providing virtualised computing resources over the Internet, alongside Software as a Service (SaaS) as discussed earlier, and Platform as a Service (PaaS) providing a platform for the development of the applications and pre-configured features that a company can subscribe to, providing the flexibility to include the features that meet requirements while discarding those that do not. An example is a textile and apparel supplier that spends a lot of time and money in sending samples of fabrics back and forth from their factories in Asia to customers in the West. Their quality control inspectors also spent a great deal of time travelling from factory to factory. These types of companies can find a competitive advantage by leveraging cloud and conferencing technologies to cut costs and accelerate time to market.
There is still doubt about the cost of the service over time and the sensitivity of data being held in a 3rd party facility, but the vast majority of SMB CEOs must overcome short-term challenges, because if they fail to seize opportunities quickly, they may lose business to more agile small rivals or larger companies with deeper pockets.