There is a cry to the IT industry today to provide succinct information about Cloud Computing… especially among Small and Medium Businesses (SMB). According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, over 52% of all small businesses are actually Small Office-Home Office or SOHO businesses. The need for these companies to keep their operational costs down is tantamount to their success. Because IT is a huge part of these businesses (everything from web site marketing to CRM applications) utilizing services online are a natural way for these companies to keep their costs down.
But in order for the small business owner to understand that online “Cloud” based services are available for reducing operational costs, they first have to know where to find them. Awareness is key to the entire eco-system and making it easy for businesses to access these services can only happen if the SMB knows where to shop. There are a variety of web sites that cater strictly to the SMB market, such as SMB Nation or the Small Business Administration in the U.S. I recently saw a national TV ad for a site called the American Express Open Forum and was excited to check it out. Unfortunately they are limiting the ability to post information to a “invited list only” at this point which radically reduces the idea of an “open” forum.
One additional way to find out more about available technology in this space is through the university systems both in the U.S. and abroad. Many universities have teamed up with local (and sometimes worldwide) businesses to provide forums for emerging technologies. The business school at Stanford for instance runs a program called the Social Innovation Review which educates the community about emerging business technologies. Stanford, known for its tremendous ability to produce entrepreneurs is a great source for budding Cloud companies. There are also technical colleges who are attempting to bridge the gap between small business and technology forerunners such as Cloud Hosting providers. The business school within Georgia Institute of Technology has an Economic Development program to tie business and technology together. Working with Industry the University of Cambridge also has a program dubbed the Cambridge Enterprise to develop community based influence of technology enhancements.
Search Engine Optimization is playing a huge part in these millions of businesses worldwide getting access to Cloud based hosted solutions. Do a Google search on “Cloud Computing” and you will see a hit list of 31 million. In the top 10 you can find salesforce.com and Amazon. Which is ironic as what most SMBs are looking for has more to do with business productivity including email and some kind of web hosting than taking care of their sales leads or putting together VMs from Amazon. Tweak the search to “hosted email” and Microsoft Exchange pops up all over the place. Tweak the search again to “hosted applications” and you’ll receive back the most mixed up bag of information you’ve ever seen.
The SMB is not about technorati or the latest buzz words. They just want to know how to get hosted applications that cost them less per month than setting up an IT group. Citrix Service Providers meet the needs of these SMBs but must use the proper techniques to be found. That is exposure through media mentioned in this BLOG as well as SEO nomenclature that will take you to the top of the Google Search Engines. An SMB should be able to type in “Internet Applications”, “Hosted Applications” or “Windows Applications Online” and find you. If they can’t, then Cloud computing for the SMB will remain a mystery.