Will the cloud lead SMBs to the promised land?

Will the cloud lead SMBs to the promised land?

Summary: IBM's John Mason recommends that the cloud combined with new mobile technology could lead small to medium businesses to the promised land. If those tools are not used properly, they can also lead to heartache. Caution and careful planning are needed not just enthusiasm.


IBM Midmarket General Manager John Mason recently published “When Small Businesses Use Cloud and Mobile to Go Global” on IBM’s Smarter Planet Blog. Mason's commentary was created to suggest that cloud computing and the growing use of mobile communications technology could be the platform for growth and expansion. Here are Mason's exact words:

"For the first time ever, there exists a massive global communications platform, providing tremendous reach for even the most modest of companies wishing to expand their horizons – literally."

Mason went on to say that Cloud Computing leveled the playing field and offered SMBs opportunities that were previously limited to large enterprises. While the technology offers a great deal of promise, I would urge that SMB decision makers move forward with caution rather than leaping onto the world stage with both feet.

Large enterprises have staff members with deep expertise in the regulations, the tax laws, the requirements for privacy and data protection that exist in each country they serve. SMBs often don't have either the staff or the expertise. For example it would be wise to understand the answers to the following questions and many more:

  • What are the implications of the regulations protecting customer data?
  • Are there special requirements for the length of warranties in some countries that differ from those in other countries?
  • Do some countries require sales or other taxes be collected and the proceeds to them on a regular basis?

While it is quite possible that a SMB would enjoy increased levels of success by reaching out to a broader market, I'd suggest building a large base in their home country and incrementally reaching out more broadly as the company gains needed experience. Jumping into the world market before a company is ready could lead to "interesting challenges" rather than to the promised land of a world wide presence and greater revenues.

If cloud computing and the newest mobility technology are used properly, it is possible that SMBs can find the promised land of increased sales and reaching a broader market. Used improperly, those same tools can also lead high costs of litigation, unhappy customers and heartache. I'd advise SMB decision makers use caution and careful planning not just blind enthusiasm. I'd also advise that these decision makers seek out those who have already taken that journey and ask for advice. There are many service providers, IT suppliers (Including IBM, of course), and other SMBs who have experience and expertise to share.

Topic: Cloud


Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. In his spare time, he's also the managing partner of Lux Sonus LLC, an investment firm.

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  • SMB cloud cautions

    Most of what the author offers is cautionary, and likely correct. However, a major missed point is that Cloud application offerors who compete in the international markets have and are developing the necessary software that manages the concerns expressed, and some not discussed, like intellectual property security. It remains for the SMB to select vendors who have the necessary expertise and tecchnology acumen to handle current and foreseeable problems, and opportunities. The EU may actually be ahead of the U.S. in dealing with these issues, since they have had similar isssues for a longer period of time.
  • That's my point

    BaltimoreBarry, thanks for adding your voice to the conversation. That's one of my main points exactly. The available technology makes it easily possible for small companies that don't have the experience to get in big trouble. To make that point, I pointed out extreme conditions that most will not experience. I agree that it would be wise for SMBs to spend some time speaking with knowledgeable partners and creating a cautious plan that will lead to growth.

    Dan K
  • Caution compared to what?

    Mr. Mason is correct, SMB managers should be running to the cloud as fast as they can. The IT services provided to the SMB prior to the availability of modern cloud computing services lack basic functionality, security, redundancy, and scalability. When it comes to IT, SMB customers are second class citizens at best. Legacy SMB IT providers are most typically hucksters with outdated and overpriced wares.

    Cloud computing offers more and costs less. That is all the SMB manager should care about. Most enterprises, much less the SMB customer, cannot match the quality and value of services provided by modern cloud computing vendors like Google, Salesforce, Box, Dropbox etc. The SMB manager does not need to sit around and ask academic questions, they Google the security practices and other customers of these platforms. Cloud computing is not something to talk about, it is something to implement.

    If Dropbox is secure enough for a multi-billion dollar firm like Dell, surely it is secure enough for the SMB.