Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) no longer have to stay in the shadows of large enterprises when it comes to using the best applications available to improve operational efficiency. In the past, enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools were available only to the most resource-rich firms, but those days have faded, thanks in large part to the rise of cost-effective technologies such as cloud computing.

Midsize Insider's Robert Lawson recently predicted that cloud-based ERP will make key strides in 2014, explaining that on-site deployments are "quickly becoming a thing of the past in many industries." The consumerization of IT is also greatly impacting the adoption of the cloud, as consumers look for the most streamlined solutions available, prompting firms to implement hosted environments to support such developments.

SMBs planning an ERP implementation would be wise to consider the potential gains of a cloud-based deployment. For example, the cloud is available via the Internet, which allows staff members to access work-related content from anywhere through the web, driving productivity to new levels. The ability to support a collaborative and agile workforce is one of the key advantages of the cloud and can benefit ERP solutions from the start.

The cloud is also affordable compared to on-site IT systems that require SMBs to purchase hardware regardless of if it is ever used to full capacity. Companies that need more computing power and storage capacity to keep pace with changing market demands can add such functionality easily with the cloud, only paying for the services they actually consume.

SMBs considering replacing legacy equipment with cloud
A recent j2 Global survey of SMBs found that roughly 88 percent would like to or are planning to replace one or more legacy solutions with the cloud. Of those polled, nearly 60 percent said they expect to reduce costs by implementing cloud technologies this year.

Mike Pugh, marketing vice president at j2 Global, said SMBs throughout every industry are migrating toward a digital office.

"With the cost-savings and increased productivity entrepreneurs gain as they move more of their business functions to the cloud, we're not surprised this 2014 survey finds SMBs planning to further leverage social media, virtual phone services, email marketing and online faxing. The overall message from the survey is that the cloud just makes smart business sense for the SMB," Pugh said.

The reliance on cloud computing will only intensify moving forward. SMBs that want to take advantage of the technology should adopt it sooner rather than later, given the hectic nature of the corporate landscape. For firms that want to focus on cloud-based ERP in general, it is critical to select a reputable vendor to avoid any implementation issues. The popularity of the service has attracted plenty of service providers, making it difficult to discern the leaders from the pack. Infor solutions are ideal for organizations that want to leverage the power of the cloud with the functionality of ERP suites.