AWS Smart Business Blog

Modernizing Small Business Communication and Collaboration with Cloud Services

When was the last time an important task, file, or customer complaint slipped through the cracks? How about a frustrating video chat or screen sharing connection where you couldn’t understand the person on the other end? These examples illustrate how outdated, on-premises collaboration tools can hinder productivity and cause miscommunication. Small and medium businesses (SMBs) such as yours have struggled with limitations imposed by conventional communication tools for decades, including email threads that seem to go on forever, document version chaos, and restricted in-person meetings, all of which have stifled productivity. Your company might even use task management software installed on individual machines that predates your youngest employee.

The success of SMBs depends on their ability to adapt, innovate, and collaborate effectively, especially since the onset of the pandemic. With the advent of cloud services, SMBs have a transformative opportunity to modernize their communication and collaboration strategies, unlocking unprecedented efficiency, flexibility, and competitiveness levels. A survey by Gartner shows a 44 percent increase in workers using cloud-based collaboration tools since the pandemic began in 2019, underscoring the importance of companies keeping employees highly productive no matter where they work.

This blog post explores some challenges with conventional tools and how cloud-based solutions revolutionize them with a suite of tools and platforms that cater to the unique needs of SMBs.

Common pain points SMBs face with limited or older collaboration tools

If you run a small business, you might track your project management, sales, finance, and resource planning data in disconnected spreadsheets or apps. When the time for monthly reporting comes, consolidating these different formats could take time, and data could get lost. This can all be addressed with collaborative tools in the cloud. If your SMB faces these challenges, you should consider adopting or moving more workflows to the cloud.

1. Inflexible pricing models

As an SMB leader, you’re likely focused on improving productivity while reducing IT spending, including solutions for business communication and collaboration. Unfortunately, many legacy systems have expensive licensing terms and maintenance costs that can keep your team locked into using the same product for years. Therefore, it can be challenging for SMBs to find a cost-effective solution, mainly when some vendors offer features you may not even need but still have to pay for.

2. Disconnected software

Another major challenge SMBs encounter is the proliferation of software. Customers and teams often use multiple tools, such as email, instant messaging, real-time collaboration, file sharing, and video conferencing, leading to inefficiencies and missed opportunities. Team members may find it challenging to keep track of conversations and messages, leading to missed deadlines, miscommunication, and potential loss of business opportunities.

3. Scalability constraints

Finally, SMBs must adapt to market changes and customer feedback to stay competitive. Think about this like clothing: sometimes you outgrow an item that has served you well but you don’t discard it out of habit. If you think bigger, you can scale operations to accommodate increased workloads and fluctuations in demand. Failure to keep up can result in poor performance and user experience. As an SMB owner or leader, you need to choose the right solution to support your team’s future growth and innovation.

The value of cloud-based communication and collaboration solutions

A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that collaboration tools are the top technology investment worldwide to keep employees engaged and productive. Amazon Web Services can help SMBs with a wide range of cloud-based services designed to meet their communication and collaboration needs. Here is why your business should explore these options

1. Fully managed scalable services

Cloud-based solutions offer the ability to easily and quickly subscribe to the services you need and set up your user accounts or content management sites in minutes. For business communicationAmazon Chime offers a reliable solution for messaging, meeting, and making business calls – both within and outside your organization – all through one convenient app. This consolidates two forms of communication and is designed to be more secure than free alternatives.

For content management and file collaboration, Amazon WorkDocs is a managed service that offers secure storage and sharing capabilities. Employees can share important documents and collaborate with others regardless of location. This solves the challenge of storing files on individual machines and losing track of versions. If your teams need more capacity, you can easily purchase additional storage on a pay-as-you-go basis, allowing you to scale your needs quickly and efficiently.

SMBs like yours are using these tools to meet their growing users. AWS customer Qonda is a technology company that sells a real-time translation tool. Its own customers can use the browser-based tool to conduct corporate communications in their native language using any video or audio conferencing platform. Qonda was able to address scalability and automation needs by using cloud-based services from AWS, such as Amazon Chime and Amazon Transcribe. Consequently, their platform scaled as needed, reducing their IT resources to zero when no live streaming occurred.

2. Cost efficiency

Cloud-based solutions provide predictable and flexible pricing that accommodates the fast-decision-making cycles of SMBs. The cloud offers on-demand access to resources via the internet with pay-as-you-go pricing for collaboration, email, document and storage sharing, and real-time communication.

AWS offers SMBs a range of solutions to achieve true collaboration and productivity. Most importantly, all the services align with SMB customers’ desire for simple, flexible pricing models with no upfront fees or long-term commitments. For example, if you use Amazon Chime, you can enjoy free basic features if you only attend meetings. However, you will pay for the pro features if you need to host meetings. The pro features cost $3 USD per day, with a maximum of $15 USD per month.

Similarly, Amazon WorkDocs provides a simple on-demand service price based on registered users and the total amount of storage allocated across all users in your account. The pricing varies depending on the region where you setup the service, with charges ranging from $5 USD to $8 USD per user per month, with 1TB of storage included.

3. Innovate and automate with Artificial Intelligence (AI)

With the advent of cloud-based services and AI capabilities, SMBs can benefit from integrating these technologies into their collaboration tools. These tools can enhance communication and productivity by automating repetitive tasks, predicting outcomes, and generating new data. Additionally, generative AI can autonomously create content such as written text, images, stories, and music, improving collaboration and communication in new and innovative ways.

AWS makes it easy for SMBs to add AI capabilities to their communication and collaboration tools. As mentioned earlier, Amazon Transcribe is a managed AI service that converts speech to text. SMBs can extend their applications with Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) technology from Amazon Transcribe to generate subtitles on audio/video content, transcribe voice-based customer service calls, or conduct (text-based) content analysis on audio/video content. SMBs can experiment with AWS AI services to improve collaboration and communication, including text extraction, speech recognition, and enterprise documentation search.

4. Designed to be secure

Growing SMBs benefit from cloud-based services to automate and protect their business communications and digital information. With AWS, SMB employees and external contractors can securely collaborate remotely and improve productivity via file sharing and storage, email and messaging, and video conferencing services. SMBs who begin using services like Amazon WorkDocs, Amazon Chime, and Amazon Transcribe inherit the latest security controls AWS uses in its infrastructure. AWS uses a Shared Responsibility Model where we manage the cloud infrastructure and you manage the data stored in it.

For on-demand access to security and compliance reports from AWS, SMB leaders can refer to AWS Artifact as their go-to resource for compliance-related information, including International Organization for Standardization (ISO), Payment Card Industry (PCI), and System and Organization Control (SOC) reports.

Conclusion and next steps

Choosing the right tools for employees can be challenging for SMB leaders due to the volatility of the technology landscape and the continuous pace of innovation. However, making the right decision will help teams to have all the necessary resources to work efficiently and produce high-quality results. Take a quick survey to identify the lacking essential tools. Using AWS services, SMB customers can build a more agile, connected, and productive workforce that drives success in today’s dynamic and rapidly evolving business landscape. To learn more about collaboration and communication offerings, contact an SMB expert at AWS.

Vicky Graciano Martinez

Vicky Graciano Martinez

Vicky Graciano Martinez is a Solutions Architect at AWS helping SMBs realize the value of cloud technology. Before joining AWS, she worked for the telecommunication company Ericsson, the software development company Cisco, and Ford Motor Company. Vicky holds a Master’s degree in Internet Science and Technology from the University of Twente and is based in the Netherlands.

Daniel Rozo

Daniel Rozo

Daniel Rozo is a Sr. Solutions Architect at AWS supporting SMB customers. Before joining AWS, he was a Solutions Engineer for the technology company Oracle and an Inside Sales Engineer for the cybersecurity software company McAfee. He holds a Master’s degree in Information Technology from the University of Twente and is based in the Netherlands.

Vaibhav Sabharwal

Vaibhav Sabharwal

Vaibhav Sabharwal is a Sr. Solutions Architect at AWS who works closely with SMB customers in their cloud journey. He has 17 years of experience working for technology companies in architecture and customer-facing roles. Vaibhav has a Bachelor's of Engineering degree from Maharashtra Institute of Technology in India and is based in New York.