The computing model can help SMBs deploy collaboration technologies usually reserved for large enterprises
If a Canadian small or medium-sized business (SMB) hasn’t already adopted cloud computing in some form, they certainly have plans to in the near future. That’s the consensus I’ve gotten in my discussions with many of them across the country.
However, this encouraging trend is being held back by the perception that SMBs are limited solely to cloud applications such as storage/backup solutions or hosted e-mail. These cloud computing services are definitely the most heavily used cloud applications in the typical Canadians SMB, but by no means should SMBs stop there.
A colleague recently blogged about the growing Bring-Your-Own Device (BYOD) trend and the way it can empower employees to collaborate more effectively. I feel this can also apply to the cloud, as one of the most underrated business opportunities for Canadian SMBs is to embrace the computing model for their communication services.
This can be boiled down into three obvious benefits.
The first is tied into the reason many SMBs look at the cloud in the first place: cost savings. An organization can deploy and pay for cloud-based collaboration tools such as Cisco WebEx on a monthly subscription basis.
With WebEx, SMBs take advantage of software-as-a-service that can change the way employees meet and collaborate. Employees can not only meet using audio, video and IM chat features, but they can also share documents, tasks and calendars.
And Cisco’s global network of WebEx data centres ensures the service is scalable to the largest enterprises in the world, so SMBs can confidently promote the use of the service with fear of interruption or outage.
Sadly, many SMBs resort to using a hodgepodge of communication technologies that are difficult to manage and ineffective at helping their employees collaborate. Patching together a bunch of collaboration technology also becomes expensive over time.
With WebEx, SMBs can install the solution and start reaping the rewards right away.
Secondly, along with the eliminating capital operating expenditures, SMBs can virtually eliminate any maintenance, security and management headaches associated with cloud-based communication solutions.
Cisco has hundreds of partners that specialize in deploying collaboration solutions to the SMB space. It is simply not practical for SMBs to keep a large, broadly skilled IT teams on staff.
Working with a solution provider to deploy and manage a service like Cisco TelePresence will bring businesses an enterprise-grade video collaboration tool that not only drastically reduces travel costs, but also has the ability to improve the work/life balance and productivity of every single employee. And because the solution is installed and managed completely by your partners, IT management costs (and headaches) are non-existent.
And finally, the third and most important benefit associated with hosting communication infrastructure in the cloud is scalability.
The goal of the vast majority of SMBs is to grow into something bigger.
A trend among Canadian start-ups is to utilize hosted services wherever they can. Data centre services, e-mail clients, word processing software; start-ups aren’t afraid to move anything they can to an IT service provider. If the solution isn’t directly related to a core competency, these growing businesses don’t see the value in hiring an IT department to manage it.
The same rules can and should apply to smaller businesses. Utilizing managed services such as Cisco WebEx or Cisco TelePresence, SMBs can basically “plug-and-play” these next generation video collaboration services over an existing broadband connection. No specialized IT staff or equipment is needed and all of the services can scale right along with the business.
For more information on how you can communicate and collaborate with SMB-focused products from Cisco, please visit http://www.cisco.com/web/CA/smb/need_to/communicate.html