business technology

Small Business On The Cloud? Not There Yet!

Being a small business owner myself I often communicate latest and greatest of IT achievements to my fellow small business owners who aren’t as tech savvy. Since the latest hype seem to be the cloud, I am genuinely interested in feedback of people who are not on Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn, but who are small business owners none the less. With all the hyped up trends of running your business off your favorite Blackberry/iPhone/PDA we, the tech guys, tend to forget about other entrepreneurs.

So I went around my own clients as well as their friends – whoever happened to be a small business owner had a chance to respond. The question I was asking is simple – how would you be able to benefit from the cloud services in your current set of operations. Plain English version: we are not changing the infrastructure of the business, we’re just trying to see what cloud services would be helpful to the business as it is.

The responses I got were surprising – to say the least. None of the business owners would trust cloud or any other internet service with any kind of critical part of their operations. Why? Because their internet connectivity is NOT 100% reliable. Why? Because their operations are mostly based on offline interaction.Why? Because their internet connectivity is not 100% reliable. See the pattern?

It makes little sense for a small business to justify paying for SLA-backed lines like T1, T3 which are a lot more expensive while providing significantly lower speeds compared to general consumer-grade connections (like cable or FiOS). Yes, they do use internet for job-related tasks – like downloading forms and brochures, doing competition and marketing research, advertising and so on. However, none of them could justify purchasing a dedicated commercial-grade internet connection for what they are being offered. Which means – business cannot rely 100% on their stuff being available online. Therefore – no cloud services.

It just boils down to this – we are not connected enough to use cloud services. Yes, a few of us live off their smart phones. If pushed hard enough I guess I could do away with any of my smart phones – if I am on the go (although I do lug my X61s pretty much always these days). But for the rest of small business owners I had a chance to talk to – this is not an option. Contacts must be local. List of clients, leads, price lists, suppliers, data backups – everything must be local and available offline. The longest shot I’ve seen to a mobility so far – is a take-home laptop that is synchronizing everything daily.

So while I am happy to see new cloud services every day, I guess the more important question to ask – before asking which cloud service could benefit your business – is this: are you connection good enough to rely on cloud services? Chances are – you still must keep an actual copy locally. Just in case.