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Small businesses seek to take off with the cloud

Sharon Gaudin | Aug. 22, 2014
Cloud computing isn't just for the enterprise; it's likely to bring big changes to small businesses too, survey finds

The co-owner of a small Florida-based company was about to have a baby so she sought a more flexible way to run her business.

She found the answer in cloud computing technology.

Julia Suriano, co-owner of Kebroak BBQ Company, a 7-person operation that imports and distributes charcoal to retailers and restaurants across the country, needs access to company information quickly and from anywhere.

"I may be with my kids but while I'm at their tennis practice, I can access my client information and make decisions and get information to people working in the office," Suriano told Computerworld. "I think this is just a beginning. Let's see what else we can use [the cloud] for our company."

Kebroak BBQ is one of the many small businesses that are making the move to cloud.

According to a recent Emergent Research study, 74% of small businesses (companies with less than 50 employees) report using some cloud-based applications - most commonly email, online banking and social media.

As the gradual start grows, Emergent expects that the cloud computing will change how small businesses operate by 2020.

Considering some small business owners today call themselves cloud champions for using Twitter for marketing or Google's Gmail, there's a long way to go before such companies commit to moving data storage and infrastructure technologies to the cloud.

A lot of small business owners and managers have the same misgivings - mainly security and uptime - as their enterprise counterparts. At the same time, Emergent's survey of 500 small business executives in June found that 37% are completely or very confident in the cloud.

That means 63% are not so confident.

"Even though they're using the cloud, most of them still aren't comfortable with it," said Steven King, an Emergent partner and analyst. "When you start talking about putting your financials in the cloud -- the systems you rely on -- that's when" they cite security and downtime fears. "That's the point where they're not comfortable with the cloud yet."

Suriano, though, says she's confident about using cloud-based services in her small business.

In 2012, the then three-year-old company switched from Intuit Inc.'s QuickBooks' desktop software to the company's cloud-based accounting software.

"I can see invoices or how much a client owes, and statements," said Suriano. "It really helps me be outside of the office and still access information in real time."

Kebroak has since added Gmail and Dropbox, a cloud-based storage and file synchronization service.

Suriano said she hasn't had any trouble with cloud outages or security issues but she has warned employees to be careful wwhen storing information from outside of the office.

"You need to be very clear with your employees about accessing information from home and what they can do at home and what they should do at the office," she explained. "They shouldn't download reports that could stay on their personal computer where others could then access them."


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