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SMBs: Where to get help in the Cloud

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Over the past few months I’ve spoken to many small and medium businesses across the country looking at moving their applications to the cloud.  Many have even signed up for a few cloud applications already such as email, on-line backup or web conferencing.

While comfort level with cloud computing is growing, many businesses are still wondering “where do I begin?” A few weeks ago I suggested that looking at which functions would benefit the most from better automation as a way to understand if moving to the cloud made sense, examining what others are doing in the industry.  

Gartner’s most recent Hype Cycle on Cloud Computing predicts that SaaS is entering the mainstream market in the next 2-5 years, meaning that SaaS adoption is not just for risk taking early adopters.  Further Gartner predicts that other than email and IT utilities, SaaS sales force automation, or SFA, is one of the most commonly adopted applications.  This might explain why salesforce.com is widely regarded as one of the most successful cloud computing applications vendors in the market. 

Customers I have spoken with indicate that sales is the first function in which they are looking for better automation through the cloud.  Whatever function you decide is most ripe for the cloud, wouldn’t it be nice if someone could point you in the right direction?

Where to get help

Despite all the hype around cloud computing it’s important to realize that nothing is ever as easy as it seems.  There are literally thousands of SaaS applications on the market today.  Which ones have the right features for you? Which ones have the security and scalability you need?  How are you going to get started and what support should you expect?   How will you pull these solutions together, with your existing applications and make sure they support your business?  These are important questions and ones that growing companies typically have little time to consider, particularly with limited IT resources. 

If you’re looking to migrate multiple applications to the cloud down the road, it’s worthwhile to find a partner who can help you along the way.  Luckily, there are many firms available to help, from systems integrators who can help customize your applications, to business consultants who can help you transform your business processes.

In the early stages of the SaaS market vendors looked to these firms to help them quickly get to market without having to invest in these types of services directly.   Now that the market is transitioning, there are new SaaS partner models emerging with companies offering end-to-end services including implementation, integration, business process consulting and support across multiple applications.  In some cases you can get your applications from these vendors directly as well.  If you are a growing company with limited IT resources you might want to consider looking at a partner who offers a total solutions approach.

There is a sea of change happening in the SaaS market. If you’re like many SMBs who have been considering making broader investments in cloud computing, you are not alone.  You have plenty of good company, from peers you can learn from to an evolving set of partners who can help you get up and running quickly.  There is no need to go it alone now, the pioneer days are behind us.

Where will you get help in your journey to the cloud?

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