Despite their widespread reliance on mobile productivity, and overall trend toward embracing cloud applications, the majority of small businesses have yet to fully understand the full benefits of cloud-based solutions for collaboration & productivity (Tweet This!)
This is according to a report released on Feb. 21, 2014 by Endurance International Group (EIG), one of the leading providers of cloud-based platform solutions. EIG found that many businesses are unfamiliar with some of the most advantageous online tools, and consequently, they fail to benefit from significant advances in cloud technology.
Small Business Perceptions of the Cloud
Quick background on the researchers: EIG is an international company that owns a family of web technology brands, including two of the top rated web hosting providers in the industry, HostGator and shared hosting provider Bluehost. Other Endurance technology brands include Domain.com, FatCow, iPage, Homestead and MOJO Marketplace. The company currently delivers services to more than 3.4 million subscribers.
With the goal of better understanding how very small businesses, or "VSBs", perceive cloud-based business solutions, EIG tapped into its large subscriber base and surveyed a panel of 420 VSBs. The survey covered a range of cloud-related topics, including how VSBs define the cloud, how they use the cloud, and what they expect for the cloud's future.
One of the most telling survey findings is that "Nearly a third of respondents...have heard of cloud-based computing but aren't sure what it means. Only 11% of respondents currently rely on it, and 67% have never purchased a cloud-based solution for their business."
What's more is that very small businesses who have not adopted cloud technology generally overestimate the risks involved. As the report states, 30% of respondents have security concerns and 29% admitted to privacy concerns. "However, of those VSBs that had purchased a cloud-based solution, 72% said they had never had any security problems, and 72% had never lost data or suffered from a reliability issue." (Tweet This Stat!)
The survey also found that cost is another big deterrent for 38% of respondents. This is a surprising statistic considering the large number of free or very inexpensive cloud-based business solutions that are now available.
What It All Means
There is clearly a wide disconnect between perceptions of the cloud, and the actual value of cloud-based business solutions. First and foremost, that means startups, individual contractors, one-man bands, and other VSBs are missing out on more efficient, cost-effective tools.
Small business CEOs need to learn more about the cloud, and start exploring how cloud technology can improve their bottom line.
Cloud-Based Business Solutions to Consider
EIG found that VSBs are generally familiar with the most popular cloud-based solutions, including email, social media, and Google. Other studies show that businesses are adopting cloud technology such as Dropbox, iCloud, and OpenDrive, so where's the disconnect? It turns out that the majority of VSBs, while familiar with common cloud apps, are less familiar with cloud-based collaboration tools, productivity tools, and survey builders.
The following cloud-based solutions in these three categories give small businesses an opportunity to save on cost while optimizing business operations.
Cloud Collaboration Tools:
- Free: Co-op -- Allows collaborators to view agendas, post updates, track time, and store activity records. User interface is similar to Twitter.
- Paid: Basecamp -- Powerful collaboration platform for online project management. Provides file storage, document sharing/editing, to-do lists, time tracking, etc.
Cloud Productivity Tools:
- Free: Boomerang -- Gmail automation platform with basic (free) and advanced (paid) plans. Allows email scheduling, email reminders, response tracking, requests for read receipts, and more.
- Paid: Google Business Apps -- Full cloud productivity suite. Integrates document sharing, email, storage, calendars, and messaging into a single cloud-based platform.
- Bonus (Free): Wave Accounting -- Google's DIY accounting platform. Auto-syncs up with your bank accounts. Keeps track of invoices. Integrates with Freshbooks and Shoeboxed.
Cloud Survey/Form Builders:
- Free: Survey Monkey -- Simple survey and questionnaire creator. Free plan allows 10 questions and 100 responses per survey. Pro plans are also available.
- Paid: Formstack -- Comprehensive online form-building software. Allows creation of any type of online form, including surveys, order forms, event registrations, and contact forms. Integrates with other major online service providers, such as SalesForce, PayPal, Google, Constant Contact, MailChimp, and DropBox.
To explore additional cloud solutions, check out this list of key cloud-based tools for small businesses. Very small businesses are seriously underestimating the benefits of cloud-based solutions, but opportunity is there to those who look.
Author Bio: Drew Hendricks is a tech, social media and environmental addict. He's written for many major publishers such as National Geographic and Technorati.
(Image via freedigitalphotos.net)