The cloud has evolved to a point where I see no advantage to a new SMB investing in Exchange & SharePoint on premise solutions. Too many very good hosted solutions are available today to justify new investment in these systems. For existing SMBs with current on-premise systems, they should consider migrating to cloud based solutions as their maintenance contracts come up for renewal. Naturally, they need to look at the ROI of the migration, being sure to include the cost of the migration, but I am confident that in most cases the near term ROI in such a project will be excellent.
Recently, with the BPOS and AWS outages, a lot has been written about the availability and reliability of the cloud for these applications, this is where the SMB and their advisor need to be realistic about how the on-premise solutions they put together actually perform relative to modern cloud solutions. I argue that the best on-premise solution in an SMB will never approach the availability, security and reliability or performance of a well designed cloud implementation.
A newly formed SMB also needs to consider the alternatives to Exchange, SharePoint, etc. available today as well. For example, Gmail is a great way to get a hosted email solution going with almost no cost.
The cloud creates a lot of possibilities for SMBs: improved functionality, lower risk, less management overhead, lower cost to name a few. The channel has even greater opportunity to reshape their businesses to better serve their customers by leverage these unique cloud based solutions that deliver far better value and functionality compared to the traditional approach. The open minded and nimble VARs will find the right balance of cloud solutions for their customers and become the leaders in their markets, the others will be stuck in the past.