With all the talk today about cloud computing and working online, you’d think that huge numbers of business owners are migrating their entire operations to Internet applications and platforms. The value statements of “no upfront costs”, “pay as you go”, and “better collaboration” are the marketing speak for these online solutions, but the actual reasons for adoption may be very different from what you’d expect. And yes, businesses are moving in droves to the “cloud”, but not necessarily to true web-based applications.
One of the primary drivers for “cloud” adoption is the growing complexity of software and services designed to support the business. Folks usually don’t mind paying for products, but paying for the services to install, implement, and manage those products isn’t something most small businesses businesses like doing. Even a solution like Intuit QuickBooks, which was once viewed as a very simple to install and maintain product, has become quite complex in terms of its networking and database manager requirements, connected services offerings, and application integration options. This increasing complexity in the technology is driving businesses to seek outside IT help to implement, support, and manage software products and computing platforms that were once manageable from within the company. Rather than paying IT personnel or contractors on a regular basis, businesses are finding that it may be far more affordable (and effective) to totally outsource the IT – infrastructure and all.
Mobility is another huge driver for the adoption of cloud computing and online services. Application hosting was initially a great approach for businesses with multiple locations that needed to work together, but the model has been extended to address the needs of highly mobile individuals as well as the distributed organization. Just because a business has only one brick and mortar location doesn’t mean it doesn’t wish to do business from other places, too. With smart phones getting smarter, and pad computing being a reality, business users know they can have way more than just email on their mobile devices.
While “better collaboration” is also a strong part of the value proposition for a cloud-based or online application approach for the business, the type of collaboration may not be what you’re thinking. For years there have been tools, solutions, and services which enable “better collaboration” among coworkers and team members (read=document sharing). However, the online working model potentially enables another type of collaboration – collaboration with outside parties and electronic data exchange with other systems. Interactions with vendors, customers, even professional service providers, may be more fully enabled through an online working model. Clearly, public accountants recognize this benefit, and are leveraging it to generate and capitalize on new service opportunities with their clients online.
What’s interesting about the current wave of adoption of online services by small businesses is the realization that some of the fundamental needs of the business – messaging and productivity – are not the drivers for “moving online”. Certainly, many of these elements were the initial focus for cloud computing vendor offerings – like Google Docs, hosted MS Exchange mail, etc. – but the reality is that businesses are heavily invested in the operational software tools and products currently embedded in the market and are reticent to leave them behind. Desktop-based solutions, like Intuit QuickBooks for example, are still the cornerstones of many SMB (as well as enterprise) business operations. Even though there may be web-based alternatives, they often lack the options, flexibility, or usability of these tried-and-true products. And, sadly, they lack the integrations.
The market wants their familiar software and systems, but they now want them in a new, simple to access and easy to implement manner. Further, the market demands (continues to demand) that their business solutions integrate, share data and work together… and they want options, lots of options. This is why businesses want to host their desktop editions of QuickBooks in the cloud, and why so many businesses are electing to use InsynQ for their QuickBooks hosting.