Small Business Left Below the Cloud

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Cloud Disconnect

While many small and medium-size companies are being forced to use cloud services, they aren’t able to get the full value out of them.   Many smaller companies need “the basics” to continue their operations.  Large cloud providers are building large behemoth solutions for enterprise organizations.  These large enterprise solutions get distilled to SMB (Small Medium Business).   The SMB is now forced to learn about the new solutions.

The new solutions aren’t just large, they are dynamic.   The dynamic nature of the solution means constant change.  This constant change comes at a cost for the SMB. They require constant education.

A few months ago, I was visiting a medical office.  I noticed the operating system their software was running on was Windows XP.   I asked myself in internal dialogue “why the heck would this beautiful new medical office have Windows XP as the workstation?”  The doctor and I had our medical discussion and prior to him walking out, I asked him about the OS.   He leaned forward towards and asked “what do you know about this stuff?” I mentioned that I work in Information Technology and that Windows XP could be a risk to his office.  He acknowledged the risk and went on to explain, that his “IT guys” told him that he will need to do a lot of things.  He will need to update the network, he will need to move to a different kind of model in paying for his software.  He will have to upgrade all the software he has internally.  He will have to buy new kinds of connector “things” for software that’s in the cloud somewhere.  He went on to talk about HIPAA and other privacy concerns.  He looked at his watch and glanced up at me and said, “I have to seem my next patient.”

I didn’t feel as if I helped him in any way.  In fact, the very mention of all the things he needed to do that I accidentally reminded him about seemed to cause distress.  As I walked out of the office, I looked back at the size of the building and thought about the beauty of the office aesthetically.   I had a good experience and Windows XP had nothing to do with it.  That said, we in IT know that XP within itself is a rusty pillar holding up a concrete bridge.

Over the past year, I sought out to observe and pay special attention to small business and how they use technology.  I asked questions and interviewed companies to learn how they do business and how they see cloud technologies coming into play for them.  Here are a few points for discussion over time.

  1. Cloud has lowered market entry barrier in some cases and can make starting up a business very easy.  Think about a food truck using square.
  2. Mature small business with tacit knowledge and highly engrained process have many digital laggards.
  3. Mature business running on slim margins may see increased costs to move into cloud models.
  4. Mature business requires time and education including an iterative process for continued learning.
  5. A mature business may require a small part of a large solution but they buy too much or too little because they don’t have a consultancy with experience in scale.

Some may argue that everyone isn’t impacted and that my assertion may be overblown. I’ll leave you with this one short true story.

I know a man named Jaime.  Jaime owns a small contracting company.  He came to the US a few years ago from Ecuador to make a life for himself.  He is fantastic at what he does and his talent and professionalism hearken to a time when the handshake and a look in the eye were all one needed to do business.   I spent some time talking to Jaime about his business and asked him about how he uses technology.   He told me about his struggles with QuickBooks and how it doesn’t send out invoices as he needs it to.  He told me about the days and nights calling for technical support in between him doing jobs.  He told me about the days he needs to take away from the job sites doing administrative work that he could have just done on paper but now is required to be electronic. From his perspective, it isn’t helpful.  It is costly and he can’t afford to have people do it for him.

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How do we help him?

How do we help the doctor? Even though may think the doctor should have enough money to help himself.  The costs to run a business are high.

Is the cloud helping or hurting?

What do you think?

2 Replies to “Small Business Left Below the Cloud”

  1. From my limited knowledge on this subject I would say in most cases “cloud” technology would not help them much. There could be information from a cloud for research in their industries but that would be limited to the data stored in the cloud. For most of the day to day information flow they would only need their own servers which shouldn’t be expensive. It would be more secure as well as long as they have a good firewall and an updated OS. I see your point on the OS but hacking within a smallish network with a good firewall might be easier to detect than on a large cloud network where there are so many points of entry.

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