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John Zanni, vice president of service provider marketing and alliances for Parallels, said he has seen huge opportunity and growth of small businesses consuming cloud services.“It’s less relevant what technology is being used, but more relevant if the services are using well-known brands,” Zanni said.“That way, you are comfortable that the technology is the latest, the best brand, the most efficient and most secure software.

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The cloud does for IT what companies like UPS and Federal Express did for the shipping industry, Stephen Braat, senior director and general manager of cloud and managed solutions for CDW, said.“When it comes to getting product to customers, their technology enables them to do it on a larger scale at a lower cost,” he said.

“The cloud is the great technology equalizer.”Technology is a huge driver of competitive advantage, and historically, technology that larger companies used was not available to smaller companies, who typically have 50 employees or less.“The technology that Wal-Mart was using for its supply chain was one that smaller businesses couldn’t keep up with,” Dan Levin, chief operating officer of Box, said.

However, for businesses that like the idea of a private cloud, Levin said there are private clouds hosted by companies like Rackspace, Amazon and Microsoft that give small businesses their own dedicated equipment on a dedicated network; so in a sense it is private, but the company wouldn’t have to keep all of that in-house.

He cautioned, however, that it requires companies to write their own software and applications.

Small business silver lining CDW’s market research shows that security, performance and integration are the barriers most often cited by small businesses.

Despite the issues, customers are indicating a steep growth in implementing cloud technology of between 27 percent and 39 percent year-over-year, he added.

“You need to be looking out for a service that is month-to-month.

Let them prove they are doing what they say they are doing.”There are perceived trade-offs for the cloud that include control and security, but really there aren’t any depending on business, said Box’s Levin, who has worked with small businesses and the cloud for six years.“Realistically, those companies are going to get much better security, reliability and performance with much lower costs and hassle,” he said.

In addition, businesses that use the cloud have seen employee productivity increase, which in turn drives innovation and speeds technologies to market, he added.

Levin said the public cloud is a “game changer” for small businesses because it gives them access to enterprise-level applications.

Public (available to the general public over the Internet), private (within a corporate firewall), community (shared between organizations) and hybrid (a combination of the three).

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