Cloudy With a Chance of Rain-Making

The company does not manufacture outside the U.S. but maintains an office in Hong Kong to coordinate Asian sales. It also runs lab-testing facilities in Germany, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan—which are spread over many time zones. The Internet “is the only thing that allows it to take place,” he said. “Otherwise, we’d be on planes all the time and it would be inefficient.” Distributors also can get access to information about products from Sono-Tek’s website. “When I was at GE in the late ’90s, the Internet was just becoming important,” Coccio recalls. “If you went back before that and tried to do what we’re doing today, it would have been very difficult.”

The company took the plunge into the cloud by turning to SugarCRM, a smaller, specialized provider, to manage its CRM system. Like many SME CEOs, Coccio says he will keep evaluating specific IT functions to see when it’s time to take them to the cloud, as well. “We do evaluate the ‘make it ourselves’ versus ‘buy it’ decision from time to time. Would we be better off doing that and what are the security concerns? If you have it here on premises, that doesn’t mean it’s more secure, because someone somewhere in the world will figure out how to crack your onsite servers.”

Coccio is not a techie and relies on an IT manager, who reports to the vice president of engineering. “You need to apply your business judgment to investments in any area, including IT, and evaluate the people you have to see if something has a good, gut feel,” he says. “A lot of what CEOs do is based on [their] gut.” And Coccio’s gut almost certainly will lead him deeper into the cloud. The bottom line? A judicious use of cloud computing can give a smaller company enormous advantages globally.

SIDEBAR: Music Mastermind’s Cloud-Based Business Model