The meek shall inherit the cloud

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This article appeared in the August 2014 issue of CRN magazine.

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The meek shall inherit the cloud

Rabid knows a thing or two about small business and the not-for-profit sector. After all, you can’t get much smaller than our shop – and you can’t make much less profit. But we are not alone. This end of the business wilderness is inhabited by most of the people, most of the time. And they need technology just as much, if not more, than the big end of town. They need it, but they can’t afford it.

Vendors fall all over themselves to have their kit used by every single Fortune 500 company. They wear their success proudly in advertisements and slogans. Sure it’s a great feeling, like getting a backstage pass to the Rolling Stones’ next gig. You’re up there with the rich and famous. But after you’ve sold a Rolls Royce technology solution to every sheik in Abu Dhabi, who else will buy one?

Meanwhile, there are several million small businesses that need the latest technology, yet they languish with long out-of-date versions of software and operating systems. They scrape together the cash or lease payments to upgrade their clunky old PCs, only to have their tech support tell them their essential software won’t run on the new system, then watch as their shiny new toys get downgraded to 15-year-old operating environments in the name of affordable compatibility. But there’s a solution bubbling to the surface and it’s not coming from any particular vendor targeting the desperate SMB sector.

Instead, it’s coming from the howling and whining at the big end of town, where IT costs are rapidly outpacing the return on investment mantra being peddled by their technology mandarins. The bottom line is refusing to rise in lock-step with IT investment, so things have become distinctly cloudy.

We’re back to the original model of computing when mainframes were the only game in town, and hardly anybody could afford one. Everyone else rented time on one of those monsters. The cloud computing paradigm is just the modern iteration of the same problem. If you can’t afford the best toys, see if you can borrow some from the rich kid for a few hours a day. This move into the cloud might have been instigated by huge companies trying to stem the flow of red ink pooling on the floor of the in-house computer room, but SMBs have most to gain.

Right here, right now, there’s almost nothing a small business needs that can’t be found in the cloud. And that’s everything from word processing to email to websites to point-of-sale, all available for a monthly tax-deductible rental. There’s almost no need for any small business to host its own server farm just to run the company. And that also means no need for on-site tech support or relying on the owner’s 12-year-old nerdy offspring to keep everything working.

All that’s needed is a tablet, hooked up to a big screen, and a proper keyboard, connected to the internet to reach cloud-based business software. After business hours, the tablets can go home with the staff, and the kids can show their parents how to use them, saving a small fortune in training. All that’s required is a solid, fast link to the internet. And therein lies the rub.

Maybe we should build a national broadband network? Oh, wait…

Gotta go! Link is down. Again.

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