If you’re the owner of a small business, one of your biggest hurdles is competing with larger, established companies. So what’s an SMB to do? Many SMBs are actually doing what the big guys are doing, at least when it comes to the cloud. SaaS, PaaS and other cloud services are leveling the playing field for SMBs, and also opening the door for niche services to emerge around various industries.
The Cloud Phenonmenon
Parallels, a hosting and cloud services enablement provider, released the latest findings from Parallels SMB Cloud Insights, its study profiling the cloud buying behavior of SMBs, the fastest-growing segment for cloud services.
According to the survey, SMB cloud adoption is now a global phenomenon. The worldwide SMB cloud market is expected to expand at a 26% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to $68 billion by 2014.
The cloud niche
One real opportunity in cloud services for SMBs is going niche. And one service that’s gotten a recent boost is the legal domain, empowering small firms with specific cloud services from Clio.
Recently awarded a $6 million funding round, Clio’s web-based app lets lawyers manage their practice from the cloud. Like healthcare and finance, the legal industry has its own set of requirements to operate within a cloud environment. Security and lawyer-client privileges are just some of the concerns Clio had to address, but the result is a specialized spin on a cloud trend that’s designed for a highly regulated industry.
“Cloud is transforming nearly every industry,” says Jack Newton, CEO and co-founder of Clio. ”It’s especially surprising to some that the legal industry, typically slow, is embracing the cloud so whole-heartedly. The value proposition for Clio is they can manage their entire practice online, keeping on top of their calendar, to-do lists, related documents and time and billing.
“The other unique component, and big advantage versus desktop-based systems, is that we have a fully integrated client portal that allows our lawyers to interact securely with their clients. It’s secure online collaboration and it’s cost effective in lieu of phone calls, faxes or emails, which have high overhead and lower security.”
The incorporation of multiple management features is becoming standard operating procedure for many collaborative cloud services geared towards SMBs. Companies like Producteev and Syncplicity are centralizing a myriad of services into a single hub, and Clio takes the next step towards contextualizing these services for their specific client needs. And in Clio’s eyes, that’s a major perk for SMBs.
“Clio can provide a competitive advantage by embracing collaborative technologies,” Newton explains, giving the example of Clio Connect, their platform for securely tracking and sharing documents, adhering to their industry regulations and keeping a document from being sent over an insecure email connection. ”It adds a social angle to the typical lawyer-client interaction. What we’ve heard is that it’s a huge competitive advantage over firms that aren’t using this technology.”
Billowing cloud efforts
And Clio isn’t the only company with a niche angle on cloud services. The UK government launched CloudStore, their G-Cloud application procurement site, which gives small businesses the opportunity to compete with large IT companies for public-sector contracts.
The recently opened CloudStore offers services from 257 companies to public-sector organizations in a browsable, GCHQ-vetted catalogue of cloud services, ranging from rentable infrastructure, applications and platforms to consultancy.
“It’s a complete break with the past,” David McLeman, the managing director of UK cloud and security vendor Ancoris, said in an interview with ZDNet UK. ”Historically you had a cartel of large suppliers running massive government IT projects, and that dominated government IT. I think the new initiative will help the public sector.”
Sage Source is a personalized, web-based workspace through which companies can offer their employees secure access to an ever-growing library of services (“gadgets”), from personal payroll history to company announcements and shopping discounts. The a-la-mode approach is all about centralizing the tools that you need to offset certain tasks to a complimentary cloud service.
Contributors: Mellisa Tolentino
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