The Small Business Cloud
We take a look at 5 world-leading tech companies that have brought ground-breaking new cloud services to SMEs
Plenty of organisations have broken into new markets with innovative cloud-based products. Discover which companies have successfully taken on the small business Cloud.
Cloud based computer systems are ideally suited to support the needs of small businesses. Whereas traditional business support systems are installed on a company server or individual desktop computers, meaning each has to be managed and maintained by the business, cloud solutions offer software as a service (SAAS) that can be accessed over the internet.
Cloud software does not require expensive hardware upgrades or IT technicians to install and configure complex systems, making it a much cheaper investment for smaller, growing businesses. However, many service providers have developed solutions for big businesses with big budgets that SMEs cannot afford.
Here, we discuss some of the companies that have put the needs of SMEs first and foremost and are creating excellent solutions that can be implemented in small offices.
Sage was founded in 1981 in Newcastle, UK, by a businessman and an ex-NASA computer scientist. Their aim was to create a more efficient way for businesses to generate quotations. The result was the development of an innovative piece of accounting software that was launched to the market as Sage.
Sage quickly became a leader in business accounting software and in 1999, just 18 years after its development, it became a FTSE 100 company. Sage is now going through a new phase of growth thanks to its cloud based accounting product, Sage 200 Online. Their software is a perfect choice for growing businesses that need to scale up their accounting and software packages quickly to meet increasing demand.
By creating a cloud based solution, Sage is able to deliver its software to a global market. Sage recognises that small businesses have limited IT budgets and provides affordable but scalable packages to suit. The results? One of the world’s leading business accounting packages is now available globally over the internet.
The Salesforce team recognised the potential of offering CRM over the internet very early on and launched Salesforce.com in 1999. Today, Salesforce is one of the world’s largest cloud computing companies, with over 100,000 customers and 2.1 million subscribers.
Since launching, Salesforce has made almost 30 acquisitions to ensure that it remains a global leader in cloud CRM. It has also developed two parallel products, Force.com, a platform as a service (PaaS) and Data.com, a cloud-based business database. Both of these products operate direct from the Salesforce infrastructure.
CRM was only developed as a software concept during the 1990s. Salesforce’s insight allowed the company to develop the first cloud CRM product and quickly corner the market.
PayPal was developed in 1998, the same year as Google. When it was first introduced, PayPal was a money transfer service for Cofinity, its parent company. The PayPal product was launched in 1999 and its rapid success resulted in the company name change.
PayPal was soon purchased by eBay, who saw the advantage of owning their own internet payment service. For many years PayPal continued to be a simple solution to allow people to transfer funds online.
PayPal’s best strategic move was to start working with global banking institutions to allow PayPal customers to accept payments from credit and debit cards and transfer funds to and from their customer’s bank accounts. This allowed them to launch their PayPal for business solutions, which allow businesses around the world to make fast and secure payments for services.
Prior to PayPal, businesses needed to make cash transfers using banking IBAN codes – a much more complex and time consuming process. PayPal is now helping businesses globally; it operates in 203 markets and has over 150 million active account holders.
Cisco was founded in 1984 as a computer network provider when the internet was first being developed. Cisco has rapidly evolved to remain at the forefront of computing network technology and provide businesses with affordable and robust solutions.
Cisco have embraced the Internet of Everything, or as they call it, the InterCloud, and produce services that help small businesses integrate Internet based services into their workflow. The connection of devices and machines allows businesses to dynamically generate and analyse business data.
In 2013 they acquired Sourcefire, network security software that operates over the Cloud. In the same year they also acquired SolveDirect, a cloud-based solution that allows businesses to integrate with service partners and automate the sharing of information.
Microsoft has always supported small businesses, but its latest cloud offerings take this to a new level. Every Windows user will be familiar with Microsoft’s core office software solutions; these are usually installed on a computer when the Windows operating system is first installed.
Microsoft’s cloud services provide businesses with CRM, conferencing and email without the need to install and manage software in-house. These services are great for small businesses because they provide monthly subscriptions so that businesses are not tied-in to products that fail to meet specific business needs. Microsoft helps small businesses to set up systems by using a network of third party suppliers, which although are not required, can make the transition much smoother for small businesses with little experience with IT and software installations.
The rapid development of cloud based software services is revolutionising how small businesses operate. The major players continue to develop services designed to support businesses of all sizes, and as a result, our SMEs are able to compete in a wider economic market.
Stay tuned this week for the continuation…5 companies that took on the small business cloud – and lost!
By Gary Gould