Cloud computing will have a massive impact on small and midsize businesses (SMBs) in the next three years, with new research from Microsoft suggesting that four out of every 10 small businesses expect to be paying for at least one cloud service by 2014, while the number of cloud services paid for will double in this time.

Microsoft’s “SMB Cloud Adoption Study 2011” investigates how cloud computing will impact SMBs. The study was carried out across 16 countries, including South Africa.
In South Africa, the clear trend is that larger SMBs are quicker to adopt cloud services. Of the local companies surveyed, fully 88% of those with more than 50 employees expect to be paying for nearly five cloud services within three years.
“Cloud adoption will be gradual, and SMBs will continue to operate in a hybrid model with an increasing blend between off-premises and traditional on-premises infrastructure, for the foreseeable future,” says Mark Reynolds, who heads the small and midsized business and partner division at Microsoft South Africa.
“As SMBs continue to transition to cloud services, hosting service providers, value-added resellers (VARS) and systems integrators will have a major role to play as advisors and providers of IT services in hybrid environments,” says JJ Milner, MD of Microsoft Hosting Partner of the Year, Global Micro.
“As cloud computing becomes more ubiquitous and SMBs’ existing IT becomes outdated, adoption will grow rapidly. Hosting service providers should consider the appropriate sales, delivery and support models to target larger SMB customers that are more likely to pay for cloud services,” says Reynolds.
The findings represent a major opportunity for local hosting service providers to profit from the cloud from offering services such as collaboration, data storage and backup, or business-class email, he adds.