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The city of Chicago just announced that it would be converting all of its employees to desktop and email applications based on Office 365, Microsoft's cloud-based productivity suite. With even security-conscious organizations taking the plunge into cloud computing, midsize businesses need to prepare themselves for the future of the cloud and the skills issues that are just now arising.

Chicago's Cloud Choice

As detailed in this InformationWeek article, Chicago CIO Brett Goldstein began to look into modern solutions for they city's technology issues in the middle of the past year. After months of research and consultation, Goldstein has decided to go with Microsoft's Office 365, the cloud-based applications and email suite that the tech giant released earlier last year.

This new solution will consolidate three different email systems into the Office 365 environment that the city expects to turn into an 80 percent savings per employee. This savings comes from less expensive overall software costs as well as lower IT operations costs.

While city employees were already using Microsoft Office programs, Goldstein claimed that didn't play much into the decision. He claimed that the user interface and development environment both played largely in the decision, along with security and compliance, which were verified by an independent security expert.

The Cloud Skills Gap

When municipalities start to adopt new technologies, it's a big sign that smaller organizations, like most midsize businesses, should have already made the jump. But as more and more businesses choose cloud-based solutions, a new problem is growing.

As this ComputerWeekly article discusses, there is a growing skills gap in the cloud computing world. A study by IDC expected that demand for cloud-proficient IT professionals will grow by 26 percent in each of the next three years, and there are already 1.7 million cloud computing positions that went unfilled in 2012, creating a dire situation for IT departments in the future.

The research noted that the lack of cloud-ready IT staff is now the number one stumbling block for firms looking to advance their investment in cloud solutions.

The Future of the SMB Cloud

As cloud computing becomes more and more synonymous with IT in general, IT managers at midsize businesses need to keep in mind that the longer they wait to adopt a cloud solution, the more difficult it will become to find proficient employees to manage that solution.

The major cloud barriers of just a few months ago are falling by the wayside, as security and reliability concerns are now so miniscule that even government agencies, with all of their regulatory red tape, can adopt cloud solutions in relatively short order. Unfortunately, as more and more IT managers recognize that the cloud is changing, the technology is developing second-tier issues, like a growing skills gap, that plague new innovations as they reach maturity.

Midsize businesses that want to venture into the cloud need to start doing so today, as the short-term problems with cloud computing are only going to grow in the next few years. Yes, these issues will result in smarter cloud solutions that have a level of automation that is unthinkable today. But, in the meantime, the companies that move to the cloud will have a significant advantage over their competitors, both in terms of productivity and in cost savings over legacy applications.

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