A recent report from Emergent Research called “Small Business Success in the Cloud” confirms a trend we’re consistently experiencing: everything’s moving to the cloud. Underwritten by Intuit, a provider of a wide range of cloud-based small business services like Quickbooks Online, the study predicts that by 2020, 80 percent of small business computing will be done using some form of cloud computing. Currently, only 37 percent of small business computing is cloud-based.

The report uses four types of “personas” to describe the ways in which cloud computing is evolving among those who own and manage small businesses:

Plug-in Players

They take advantage of specialized services that can be seamlessly integrated into back-office operations. Instead of spending time and effort on the nuts-and-bolts of finance, marketing and human resources, cloud-adapted small businesses will plug into cloud-based providers who deliver comprehensive, tailored solutions, giving small business operators the ability to focus on mission-critical areas of business.


Businesses comprised of individuals who share a talent that led them to form a team. They operate virtually, with employees working in different locations. Staffing levels will be increasingly flexible, rising and falling to meet project needs. For example, independent contractors will use virtual spaces to connect and market themselves. On Main Street, small manufacturers and producers may share a commercial facility.


Coud-adapted small businesses that compete head-to-head with major firms, using the growing number of platforms and plug-in services to reach markets once only accessible to large corporations. This is already being seen with platforms such as AirBnB, which provide individuals with the ability to reach a mass market through community infrastructure.


Cloud-adapted freelancers who bring together multiple income streams to create a career portfolio. These largely will be people who start with a passion, or specific skill, and are motivated primarily by the desire to live and work according to their values, passions, and convictions. They will increasingly build personal empires in the cloud, finding previously unseen opportunities for revenue generation.

However, the future depends on faster internet access

If this report is correct, and we believe it rather obviously is, then there are vast areas of the U.S. where small businesses need better, faster, cheaper and more dependable internet access. This report foresees a world in which software and data are a utility. As services reach that level of importance, government regulations tend to follow with requirements for universal access.

(Featured photo by Rex Hammock, SmallBusiness.com)

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