Why cloud technology is key to helping your SMB stay ahead of the game

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By Cindy Bates, Vice President, US Small and Midsized Business & Distribution (SMB&D) group, Microsoft.

Growth. It’s a topic top of mind for nearly every SMB owner. Based on my experiences running the U.S. Small Business group at Microsoft and growing up in an entrepreneurial family, I recognize that cultivating growth in business is not necessarily a given. However, more so than ever before SMBs have a key ally in their quest for growth: cloud technology.

While competing with large companies was once a far-fetched idea for SMBs, cloud computing makes it possible for even a micro business to perform like a big brand. SMBs are catching on to the importance of the cloud, but according to a recent survey by CompTIA, 47 percent of small businesses are only moderately close or not at all close to where they want to be in terms of using technology to improve their businesses.

In order to pull ahead of the competition, SMBs must look outside of introductory cloud technology such as email and learn to fully leverage the cloud to create and maintain a lean organization for maximum impact. Technologies such as virtualization and the cloud enable you to achieve your business goals more cost-effectively by helping you get more value from IT while reducing or eliminating up-front infrastructure costs. The ability to scale allows you to invest in only what technology is needed.

Here are a few additional ways the cloud can help your small business grow:

Do business anywhere – As the division between personal and business lives blurs, more people are working from home, from the office, and on the road—and using a growing assortment of mobile devices along the way. This flexibility can create great business benefits by making you and your employees happier and more productive. But, it can also create IT management headaches. Leveraging the cloud from a trusted provider can provide you and your employees with the freedom to do business nearly anywhere.

Tap into your data goldmine – Most SMBs are sitting on a goldmine of information – from customer purchase histories to product profitability data. Those who leverage data to their advantage will win. The challenge is to get visibility into your data—to gain the insights needed to target the right customers and gain new sales. Businesses successfully mining “big” data are cross-referencing their internal information-pricing histories, customer traffic patterns-with multiple outside sources to increase revenue by understanding customers’ behavior better, reducing costs by eliminating inefficiencies and human bias, strengthening client bonds by anticipating clients’ needs, enriching service offerings with new knowledge, and giving employees new tools to perform their jobs better.

Keep data protected – More data and more mobility have proven beneficial to SMBs but with those advances come additional risks. There are a variety of tools to help mitigate those risks. Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) for example allows single sign on to cloud and on-premises web apps from any device. Conditional access and threat detection help identify abnormal user behavior, known malicious attacks and security issues right away.

With the right technology, SMBs can put themselves at a significant advantage. The cloud doesn’t just make operations easier, it has a major impact on revenue and job creation. If you’re not leveraging the cloud to its full potential, you’re already behind the competition and in business that’s never a good place to be. Be sure to check out more resources to help you take full advantage of cloud technology.