by Christophe Primault
Published on 1 February 2012
So we decided to do a bit of curation work and share with you what we believe are the most relevant ones to small business owners.
We broke them down into two high-level topics and share a link to the referring blog in case you want to know more on a specific subject.
Part 1: Cloud-based application categories that are likely to get the most tractions with small businesses
Part 2: Underlying trends in small business cloud computing
Today we are covering the first part about product categories.
Part 1: Hot Cloud-based application categories
Increased adoption of collaboration and communication services in integrated Suites - SMB-Group
The SMB-Group is seeing a trend where small businesses are swinging from point solutions for voice, communications, social media and collaboration solutions to integrated application suites.
Medium businesses are leading the charge, with 28% currently using an integrated collaboration suite, and 35% planning to do so in the next 12 months.
Small businesses are slower to make this leap, but a transition is under way here too.
By moving from disparate point solutions to an integrated offering, SMBs can avoid the hassles of learning to use multiple user interfaces, going to different sites to login and remembering different passwords-in short, things that waste time and frustrate users. They also can lower costs and improve their ability to collaborate effectively.
A growing roster of low-cost (or free), easy-to-use integrated collaboration suites ( Google Apps, Microsoft Office 365, IBM LotusLive, Zoho and HyperOffice, to name a few) are adding fuel to the convergence fire-although vendors will still need to address the obstacle of user resistance to learning something new
Business intelligence and Big Data - Small Business Trends
Huge amount of data ( this is called "Big Data") is moving to the cloud. Vendors are offering affordable business intelligence apps and easy to access and analyse tons of information in order to understand opportunities, competitive threats or market trends.
Social data continues to mushroom, leading small business owners to need better business intelligence (BI) tools. Of course, many small businesses are still using spreadsheets to mine data into intelligence. It is possible, but a lot more work. Solutions such as Zoho Reports or Bime Analytics, have an affordable small business offering.
According to the SMB-Group 16% of small and 29% of medium businesses purchased/upgraded a BI solution within the past 24 months, and 16% and 28%, respectively, plan to do so in the next 12 months.
Many of small business consider 2012 as the "year of big data".
Small businesses are leaving behind the appointment book in favor of online scheduling automation automation. The success of sites like Schedulicity, OpenTable, Sester and ZocDoc only reinforce the idea that the traditional pen and paper appointment book may see its demise in 2012. Schedulicity alone has seen nearly 7 million appointments booked online since mid-2009.
Customer service goes community - OpenForum
The cable provider Comcast launched Comcast Cares, a social media push to repair a poor customer-service perception. It set the bar for how brands need to engage with their customers in the always-on, always-public world of social media.
As the toolset of online customer services apps evolves with players like Desk.com, ZenDesk and Get Satisfaction, businesses of any size can provide incredibly high-tech support without losing high-touch service.
Small business will embrace the community in a peer service-provider model and start providing service in public-facing, brand-building ways. They will embrace tools that turn customer service into a shared community model, where customers help answer questions and evangelize the products and services.
Online storage is seeing fast growth - Montclair Advisors
As more and more data is stored in the Cloud, businesses are looking to all different types of on-line storage services. During the year that Apple launched its iCloud small business storage service, we also saw major investment rounds for online storage companies including Dropbox and Box. We even saw a new IPO from Carbonite that provides a small business/consumer Cloud back-up service.
These investments are a sign that investors are expecting a steep usage growth from small businesses for this product category.
IT Management and Security SaaS offerings emerge - Montclair Advisors
Companies like CA have been successful in launching their new Nimsoft ITM SaaS offering during 2011, but there are also many other firms that are beginning to gain momentum with their new SaaS offerings as well.
This is a very big market opportunity to replace existing legacy infrastructure and security offerings. Companies to watch include Service-Now, Trustwave, Splunk, PingIdentity, Proofpoint and New Relic
CRM and Social CRM will continue to grow at a steady pace - GetApp.com
We also ran a poll recently on LinkedIn were voters identified CRM and Social CRM as a fast growth category in 2012 ahead of collaboration tools.
Tomorrow we will cover the second part of this post on the underlying trends in small business cloud computing.
If you are a small business you can use our free ressources to discover and compare online business software.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Digital Sextant