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Small Business, Big Cloud: How Small Businesses Can Compete Using the Cloud

Thinking Out Cloud: Episode Six

Nothing beats an underdog story and that inexplicable sense of pride when the little guy comes out on top. These stories extend beyond the classic match-ups, like Rocky versus Apollo Creed, into commercial business. Small businesses across every industry are disrupting larger competitors with cloud computing and data storage.

We asked Jim Chilton, CIO at Cengage, for his insight into how small businesses can compete with cloud tech following his 25 years of experience in the industry.

The Cloud: Giving the Underdog the Upper Hand

For little cost, small businesses have access to large-scale data centers through companies like AWS. They can use these inexpensive resources to create their solutions with little risk.

This is different from how it was historically, when the cost of an on-premise data center was an unfortunate factor for many startups. Often times, they would cost as much or more than the solution development itself. That said, cost was not always the only factor: skills, personnel and expertise were always considerations to running the technology.

Advice for Startups: Learnings from 25 Years in Tech

If you’re a new business, how does the evolution of cloud tech impact you and your organization?

Jim suggests planning for your technology in three phases:

  • 1-2 years: Show progress with your solution. Your main focus should be creating a viable solution that has proven value to the market. Use free and inexpensive technology that you can continue to use as you scale.
  • 2-4 years: Hone your tech stack. Don’t be afraid to ask your organization the hard questions:
    • What are the technologies you’ve chosen and why?
    • Can they be consolidated?
    • What resources can you get on- and offshore to develop and maintain that solution?
  • 5th year and beyond: The large consideration here is viability of your overall cost model.

Throughout your growth, consider the following two pieces of advice:

1) Simple is priceless. “It’s all about simplification.” Jim’s entire business method (which he’s trademarking) comes down to simplification.

2) Don’t change tech stacks too frequently. If a current tech is giving you 90% of your required functionality, don’t chase after a new one for a negligible amount of greater functionality. That’s a rabbit hole of uncertainty you should avoid.

Every Industry Is Innovating with Tech

Simply put, “There’s no industry that hasn’t been challenged by tech,” said Jim. Uber took on transportation. Netflix disrupted the broadcasting industry. Even the dog-walking industry has been revolutionized by i-Rover.

“There’s no industry that hasn’t been challenged by tech. — Jim Chilton

Jim’s prediction? Not only will small businesses continue to leverage cloud technology, but it will accelerate. More and more businesses will use tech to innovate and disrupt larger competitors.

To learn more about how small companies can compete within their industries using cloud tech, check out episode six of the Thinking Out Cloud podcast with Jim Chilton.

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