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By Andy Monshaw, General Manager of IBM Midmarket Business

A small healthcare provider decides to put patient records on the cloud while ensuring that they are HIPAA compliant. A regional bank turns to a managed services approach to host mobile applications and platforms so the bank can create new channels to engage consumers who expect to access their bank information with a few taps of a finger.

No matter how you look at, its the cloud that is driving the way information and technology is being consumed – changing the way we work.

Businesses – driven by consumers – expect their data to be open, accessible and easily moved between different programs. If somebody wants to connect their customer information to their sales analytics application and have that insight sent to their mobile device– they don’t see why they shouldn’t be able to.

The convenience of cloud applications has become so common that we almost take it for granted. Basic email and other cloud applications are used everywhere from small to large businesses around the world. Mobile technology has also tethered us to the cloud in ways that were unimaginable a few years ago.

Increasing Confidence in the Cloud

Today, the cloud levels the playing field for SMBs, helping them compete in today’s quickly changing business environment, by spending less time and money on IT and more time focused on their most important priority – growing their businesses.

While SMBs have expressed their security concerns in the past, they are seeing advances in this space that are changing perceptions and increasing receptivity.

No doubt, security is complex area. But it’s specifically difficult for small businesses to keep up with ever-changing and increasing security threats especially when they typically have a small IT staff to focus on it.

Now, SMBs are seeing steps taken to deliver enterprise-level high availability and security to protect their most precious assets – customer information, intellectual property and most importantly their brand — in the cloud. This is dramatically shifting the way they think about the cloud with security in the same sentence.

And this increasing confidence in the cloud is opening up new opportunities for many SMBs to use new technologies such as mobile and social channels to better compete and enter into new markets and identify new customers. In fact, according to AMI, SMBs in the United States will spend more than $49 billion on cloud services in 2015, nearly double the size of the market today.

And as mobility will continue to gain in popularity, the demand for smartphone technology and mobile computing platforms on the cloud is only going to increase. In fact, by 2015, nearly three-quarters of the internet-capable devices will be Post-PC devices, (smartphones and tablets). Many SMBs are looking to these devices to enhance the way they to do business such as using a free downloadable mobile app to brainstorm, exchange ideas and collect feedback on client accounts in real time – the key piece to help win new business.

Whether it’s data, mobile or network, security will always be one of the top priorities for any SMB. So how can SMBs maintain a level of control over access to apps and data that they expect behind their own firewall? Seamless integration that connects users and cloud apps to manage access control, auditing and authentication will be key.

So with that said, SMBs will be looking to managed service providers to help them seize this opportunity that cloud can bring, delivering the enterprise level capabilities SMBs never had access to before — helping to accelerate the cloud adoption for this business segment.

As many SMBs are under intense pressure to build their businesses, reduce costs, eliminate inefficiencies, the one thing they can feel confident about is how the cloud will open the doors to new opportunities and remove the barriers that once prevented them to get on to the path of innovation and growth.

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