When Gartner released their latest view of the Magic Quadrant for Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), many analysts were surprised to see that eight cloud service providers had been dropped from the rankings. What became clear very quickly was that the new view of the market included only the six largest players. The changes were due to what Gartner called more “stringent inclusion criteria.” The result was that the only players left on the board were global vendors with both IaaS and Platform as a Service (PaaS) solutions.

Whether or not you agree with Gartner’s approach, they are reflecting a trend which shows a diminishing number of large, dominant global players with integrated offerings. While this is good news for large corporations looking for a seamless service, SMEs may get lost in in the shuffle as the remaining companies jostle for the top spot.

Smaller companies may be better served by looking at the criteria of the Magic Quadrant and using it to assess smaller providers who are closer to home. There are several reasons for this; from convenience and security to improved service. In addition, the requirement to comply with the recent data protection legislation changes mean that it might be easier to have your data somewhere you can see and verify its security.

In the coming years, as the current IaaS and PaaS behemoths grow ever larger, there’s likely to be a parallel growth in smaller, local providers targeting their services at SMEs. A small business may find themselves struggling to be heard over the roar of larger corporations demanding an immediate response to an outage or hack. In contrast, a smaller local data centre can deliver against more stringent SLAs and be more flexible and responsive to requirements.

It’s clear that there’s no turning back the clock and the convenience of cloud technology is here to stay. What may change over time is that businesses choose to move from the solutions available from large corporations and consider the benefits of a private cloud. This offers the same level of flexibility as any cloud solution, but it’s more secure and separate from the general mass of data now floating around in the cloud.

Colocation is also likely to rise as companies address both the need to demonstrate data and organisational security whilst also watching their maintenance costs. For employees, there will be little difference in the experience from using cloud platforms. On an operational level, however, it means more control and easier access – and if there are any issues, an expert team on site to maintain the hardware and flag any issues.

The latest Gartner Magic Quadrant certainly presents an interesting picture, but for SMEs it may not be a particularly relevant one. While the numbers surrounding the reach, revenue and computing power of the ‘big six’ may be impressive, for most SMEs they’re largely irrelevant. As the market matures, what is going to matter for many is having an effective SLA and a strong relationship with their data centre. For all the advances in technology and communications, it’s likely to be good old-fashioned customer service that matters most for smaller providers looking to thrive in the changing market.