“This next decade will be the decade of the small business.” That assertion comes from Intuit in its “QuickBooks Future of Small Business Report,” which estimates that over the next decade the growth of small and micro businesses will accelerate from 30 million in 2016 to over 42 million in 2026.

According to Intuit, there are five technology trends that are reducing the costs and risks of operating a small business and engaging with customers around the world.  At the top of this list is world-class business infrastructure, such as cloud computing, available at variable costs so that small businesses can scale up and down based on need and pay only for what they use. Intuit estimates that 62% of small businesses are operating in the cloud today, up 37% from just two years ago. Intuit cites the other trends as insightful data, a growing pool of on-demand talent, online marketplaces, cost-effective online advertising and insightful data.

As an example of new data analysis offerings, Plantronics newly announced Plantronics Manager Pro v3.9 helps companies ensure the quality of communication and collaboration. The new cloud-based solution enables IT managers to manage devices and call quality by transforming the headset from a simple endpoint peripheral into a system-level data aggregator to better understand usage, compliance, trends and more.

Which cloud to choose?

As small businesses move to the cloud, they can choose among several strategies as noted in Plantronics “How to Move Your Business to the Cloud.”

  • Public cloud: With a public cloud option, services are provided remotely in a multi-tenant environment. Small businesses share hardware, storage and network resources with other companies. The benefit of the public cloud is reduced complexity and lead time to deployment.
  • Private cloud: Private cloud also is remotely located but companies use services and network resources entirely devoted to their business. The private cloud provides more options for customization.
  • Hybrid cloud: The hybrid cloud is a combination of both public and private solutions. As an example, small businesses may use the public cloud for email management and the private cloud for data storage.

Among the three, the hybrid cloud is becoming more common among small and midsize businesses, reports cloud management provider RightScale in its 2016 “State of the Cloud Report.” The survey of over 1060 tech professionals across a broad cross-section of organizations found that among the three cloud platforms, hybrid cloud adoption grew significantly from 2015 to 2016. RightScale attributes the growth to an increase in private cloud adoption – from 63 percent to 77 percent – driving hybrid cloud IT infrastructure up from 58 percent to 71 percent year-over-year.

Specifically the number of cloud applications used by organizations averages 6. Cloud users are running an average of 1.5 public clouds and 1.7 private clouds and are experimenting with an additional 1.5 public clouds and 1.3 private clouds.

Moving over to the cloud

Identify needs: First determine which cloud option is best for specific small business needs. Review current IT tasks and consider what future requirements will be.

Ask questions: Compare features, such as scalability and ease of use, among cloud service providers. Ask about security measures to protect data against breaches. It’s also important to know about uptime guarantees, since downtime is something a small business can’t afford.

Try options: Before making a decision, small businesses should test out various cloud computing options to make sure that the solution is at least equal or better than managing the application on premise.

With a positive forecast for the future, small businesses should be on cloud nine and cloud computing.