There’s a commonly held conception in the business world that the latest innovations in technology are meant primarily for larger corporations. Take cloud computing, for instance – the cloud rose to prominence during the early 2000s as an invaluable tool for storing data online making it easy to access and share. In principle, it seemed like an idea that could benefit all companies, big and small. Yet in practice, there was a noticeable gap.
The same can be said of many other technological advancements, including tailor-made mobile apps, analytical tools for big data, sophisticated safeguards against cyberattacks and more. These solutions all exist on a massive scale and they’re available to everyone, but there’s been a general tendency for larger companies to adopt them quickly and smaller firms to be more hesitant.
Their reasons may vary. Some small business owners have decided that they don’t have the time to bring themselves up to speed on new technologies, while some don’t have the money in their budgets. Still others lack the knowledge or technical skill to try new things, and their companies aren’t big enough to include dedicated IT staffs that could handle the workload for them.
All of these holdups are legitimate ones, but with any luck, they will soon dissipate. Taking a quick look at the numbers on cloud adoption, for instance, shows that the gap is closing, meaning smaller companies are now beginning to come around to the same benefits of modern technology that large corporations already enjoy.
TwinStrata, a company that works to create innovative solutions for integrating cloud storage with legacy systems, recently released the 2013 edition of its annual Cloud Storage Adoption Survey. The firm found that the first half of this year represented a period of steady growth for cloud providers, especially with respect to attracting smaller clients, leaving hope for strong year-to-year increases over cloud adoption numbers in 2012.
The firm polled companies of varying sizes about their use of, or plans to use, cloud solutions in 2013. Among IT managers at “enterprises,” defined as companies with more than 1,000 employees, 60 percent said they currently use the cloud in their everyday operations, while 26 percent said they don’t, but they plan to. Among smaller companies, the numbers were different – 38 percent said they use the cloud now, and 47 percent said it was a future plan.
Add the two figures together, and you get 86 percent cloud use among big companies and 85 percent among smaller ones – nearly identical, indicating that while a vast gulf exists currently between the haves and have-nots in the tech world, the gap is closing over time.
What’s more, there’s been a steady increase across a variety of different IT platforms. TwinStrata noted that adoption of software as a service, the most prevalent way of managing corporate IT today, has risen in the past year from 52 percent to 62. Likewise, platform as a service jumped 10 percent, from 28 to 38, and smaller gains could be seen in cloud storage (from 40 percent to 46) and infrastructure as a service (from 44 percent to 49).
The mobile revolution
The cloud is just one example of a field where small businesses are establishing a foothold. Mobile applications are another realm where companies of all sizes can get involved. When mobile devices such as iPhones and BlackBerries first rose to prominence about five years ago, designing a custom app seemed implausible for a smaller company. The technology was new, and established experts were few and far between, so no one could get into the mobile game without spending a pretty penny.
Times are now changing. Smartphones, tablets and other mobile gadgets are taking over our society, and the business world is overrun with experts who can code mobile apps and brand them to improve the image of any business, large or small. Not only is the technology affordable, but it’s easy to understand and accessible to countless consumers.
Wired magazine recently reported on just how much the mobile revolution has impacted smaller organizations. The news source cited a 2012 study from the Small Business and Entrepreneur Council which found that 78 percent of American small business owners – that’s about 1.28 million – say they’ve saved time on the job by using more mobile apps in their everyday operations. They claim to have saved an average of 5.6 hours per day, a staggering number.
The council further extrapolated those numbers to determine that saving all that productivity leads to money in the bank – an estimated sum of $275 per week, or $14,317 per year. For a small startup, that’s a lot of money, and it’s funding that can then be re-invested in driving further business growth.
Technical innovations such as the cloud and mobile apps may only have been accessible to large companies in earlier times. But times are changing, and so too are small businesses’ tech habits. CIOs should take notice.