There are a number of growing tech concepts, with one of the most popular being the cloud. While it can be difficult to actually pin down what the cloud is, many regard it as any service that is delivered over the Internet or a network. Regardless of how you define it, cloud-based solutions are becoming more prevalent in small and medium businesses, and will continue to be so in 2014 and beyond.
Here are five cloud trends small businesses should keep tabs on this year:
Increased use of hybrid cloud solutions
There are three common types of cloud solutions used by businesses: Private, which is a service created for and operated by one company; public, which can be used by anyone, and hybrid, which is a mixture of the two.
As businesses continue to integrate cloud solutions into their IT infrastructure, they often begin to struggle with using only a public or private cloud service. Some find a fully private cloud to be too expensive, whereas a public cloud can be too insecure for the needs of a business.
As a result, in the coming year we should see companies starting to use a hybrid cloud. Non-essential data may be stored using a public service, while essential or niche operations are delivered through a private cloud. As such, it is likely that we will see an increase in the number of cloud providers who offer a hybrid solution that caters to smaller businesses.
Cloud brings better value-added services
With any cloud system e.g., storage, there are a staggering number of choices available. This indicates an incredibly competitive marketplace, which is bound to become even more so in the foreseeable future. In an effort to attract and maintain customers, many providers are starting to offer value-added services along with their main solutions.
What this means for businesses is an improvement on what existing services can do, which will likely lead to them getting more out of their investment. Some examples of this include cloud storage services that focus on recovery, or Recovery-as-a-Service (RaaS). This type of service focuses on storing a company's data, and charging only for what is recovered, thus reducing expenses.
RaaS is just one example of a value-added service we could see become popular this year. Beyond this, many new services will likely bring added benefits to small and medium sized businesses.
Storage is more affordable
Moore's Law states that hardware sees a doubling of integrated circuits roughly every two years. When you apply this to memory and storage this means that producers are able to develop devices that store more, can access data faster, and cost less. Because cloud storage providers still rely on hard drives, or similar hardware to store data, they are able to purchase more efficient storage and keep their costs down.
Combine this with an increase in the number of storage providers and overall competition, and you begin to see a drop in the cost of cloud-storage. Throughout 2014, we should see a either a decrease in the overall cost of storage, or providers offering more storage for the same price. This is great news for businesses on smaller budgets as they will be able to store more data at a more affordable rate.
Cloud apps become more mainstream
Small and medium businesses have been adopting cloud-based application solutions in increasing numbers. For example, Google Apps is used by over 5 million businesses and Office 365 saw more than 1 million users sign up within the first month.
Throughout 2014 we predict that small to medium businesses will increasingly turn to cloud-based apps as a way to cut costs while still being able to execute business tasks or even remain mobile. That's not to say that businesses will abandon traditional applications wholesale, as they will likely continue to adopt one system at a time and replace aging programs with cloud equivalents over time.
This growth will likely spur improvements in cloud-based apps or the launch of more apps that businesses can use. What this means is more choice and apps that are true replacements which still offer the same quality of features as more traditional programs.
Businesses require easy-to-manage clouds
As cloud services continue to be adopted in higher numbers, with some companies adopting three or more different platforms, these can become difficult to manage. Because of this, there seems to be a demand for platforms that are easier to manage or can be managed by easily by an outside company.
This allows users to focus more on running their business than running their cloud platforms. We predict that in 2014, this will become a big trend for small business users. One of the best ways to manage your platforms is to turn to an IT partner who has the expertise and experience. Most IT partners are able to set up and manage clouds, leaving business owners to focus on their day-to-day business demands, safe in the knowledge that their technology will be available and working when they need it.
If you are looking to implement a new cloud solution this year, contact us to see how we can help.