There is no doubt about it, the Cloud revolution is well and truly here. The Cloud market in the UK alone was worth an estimated £8.5bn in 2020. And up to 94% of businesses have already adopted the Cloud in some way, shape or form.
In many ways, cloud computing and small business go hand in hand. If you have not made your own move to the Cloud yet, there is evidence that you risk falling further and further behind. Not to mention missing out on the genuine benefits for your business. In a study, Deloitte found that SMEs using the Cloud grow 26% faster and are 21% more profitable than their peers.
With that in mind, let’s look at precisely what the Cloud is and what it can do for your business.
What is Cloud computing?
In the most general sense, Cloud computing is simply computing based on the internet. Usually on a for-rent basis. Instead of running software, like operating systems or business applications, on your physical hardware, you can purchase or rent this infrastructure from a third party.
Cloud computing comes in many different forms, such as PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service), IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service), SaaS (Software-as-a-service) and even XaaS (Anything-as-a-Service). All of which have their unique niche and value proposition for different users. But it is likely that, as a small business owner, your first contact with Cloud computing services for small business will be via non-integrated SaaS Type products – for example CRM offerings like Hubspot, Microsoft Dynamics 365 or Zoho. Or file sharing technologies like Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive.
Businesses can also implement Cloud infrastructure in different ways:
- Public Cloud: This is when you use a proprietary Cloud platform developed and hosted by a third party. Examples include Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Microsoft Azure, IBM’s Blue Cloud and Google Cloud.
- Private Cloud: This is when you develop your Cloud infrastructure using your hardware and internal IT team. Vendors like Microsoft, Oracle and Cisco offer private Cloud products.
- Hybrid Cloud: This is when you use a combination of private and hybrid Cloud technologies. This can be used to separate data and enhance security. For example, more sensitive data can be hosted in the private Cloud while non-sensitive operational data can be hosted in the public Cloud to improve speed-to-market.
What are the impact and benefits of Cloud computing for small businesses?
Flexibility and scalability
Once you invest in physical infrastructure, you configure it with a set amount of resources. Each time you need to upgrade or scale your systems, it involves acquiring new hardware. This is time-consuming, expensive, and disruptive to your daily operations. And typically you need to hire expensive in-house expertise to manage it.
Cloud solutions for small business in the UK make it easy for you to scale your infrastructure on the fly, placing near-infinite resources at your disposal. This is one of the key ways that Cloud differs – it effectively enables you to develop your IT infrastructure as a journey – rather than in a fixed project with a beginning and end. Enabling you to quickly and efficiently scale your resources up or down depending on your needs. And all in return for a fixed monthly fee.
Not only is this more efficient and less disruptive, but it crucially ensures that you only pay for what you use.
Data-recovery and business continuity
Up to 60% of SMEs close down within 6 months of experiencing a serious data breach. And, the average data breach can cost in the region of £128 per stolen record. A figure that can run into thousands of pounds in a small business with an average sized customer base. That makes securing your data and thinking about Cloud storage for your small business a key strategic objective.
Cloud storage providers for small businesses typically invest heavily in building robust Cloud infrastructure with multiple fail-safes. This includes being able to duplicate and backup your data in various global locations and different types of media. If you are unsure about how to approach this it is something that an experienced IT support company will be pleased to help you with.
Should you experience a data breach or other event that leads to data loss, it’s easy to restore it from these redundant systems. It would take a significant investment in both time and staff resources to implement this type of functionality in a custom way for your SME.
Not to mention the fact that Cloud storage systems are accessible from anywhere. And, this distributed architecture also protects your data from physical disasters – ensuring you have a business continuity and disaster recovery option in place should the worst happen.
One of the mantras consistently repeated by CyberSecurity professionals is: “update, update, update.”
New threats and 0-day exploits are continuously emerging for new and old software alike. Once it’s made public, vendors typically release security patches or updates to address these issues. Still, it can be challenging to keep up with these new updates across your ecosystem.
A key benefit of Cloud services like Microsoft 365 , for example, is that they take care of this for you by automatically monitoring and updating all your software. Not only does this keep you more secure, but it also reduces time and resources spent on IT maintenance. And it means your teams are always leveraging the benefits of the latest features on offer at any time.
Cost-effective pricing schemes
By offering Cloud infrastructure on wholesale scales, Cloud solutions for small business can typically offer packages at highly cost-effective rates. Often, if you compare the cost of buying your own physical hardware, installing, maintaining, and periodically upgrading it, it’s significantly higher than simply subscribing to a similar Cloud-based service.
That doesn’t even consider secondary costs, such as the time and human resources you need to invest when maintaining your own infrastructure. It’s also typically more feasible in terms of cash flow your SME to pay regular, lower level subscriptions as opposed to finding the free cashflow for large, lump sum investments.
Enables remote and hybrid working
Cloud services for small business are uniquely designed to enable remote work. They are accessible from anywhere your staff have an internet connection, use real-time syncing and come with various communication and collaboration tools.
This means that everyone in your business has access to the same, up-to-date information at all times. Cross-platform messaging and linking also make it effortless to collaborate. For example, Microsoft Teams makes it easy for your staff to work quickly and effectively from one hub – regardless of location. Connecting with colleagues, sharing documents and updating project status in a few clicks.
And many Cloud services even come with project management, analytics, and reporting capabilities which makes managing a remote business easier.
Reduces CyberSecurity risks for remote working
Remote and hybrid working environments can exacerbate many CyberSecurity issues facing SMEs. However, working with secure, reliable and trusted Cloud providers for small businesses can drastically lower your risk. With built-in security features, like MFA (multi-factor authentication), SSO (single sign-on), and IAM (identity access management), it can dramatically reduce the CyberSecurity burden on your team and employees.
Compliance and IT governance
CyberSecurity and data protection compliance guidelines are becoming more critical by the day.
The good news is that specific Cloud services can also come with built-in compliance according to standards, such as GDPR, CCPA, and more. This gives SMEs access to enterprise data protection and governance systems without investing thousands in training and certification.
Deliver more value to your customers
Many of the same benefits that Cloud computing offers your SME will also spill over to your customers. In fact, 75% of consumers expect companies to embrace new technologies to provide better experiences.
Consumers expect instant access to information and experiences that Cloud technologies provide. Cloud computing can also be used to deliver more personalised experiences and content. Not to mention the enhanced security and communication tools.
Cloud Adoption for SMEs – The Bottom Line
As you can see, migrating to the Cloud has the potential to deliver benefits across every facet of your small business. From enhancing security to becoming more efficient in remote work to providing more value to your customers – the Cloud truly can transform your business for the better.
However, it’s not always easy to identify the best Cloud solutions for your small business. Not to mention integrating these technologies with your systems and training employees to use them efficiently and safely.
Working with an experienced managed IT company specialising in Cloud services for small businesses will help fast-track that process. And set you up for a successful Cloud-based future.
If you would like to learn more – and for a no-obligation discuss around your own specific needs. Get in touch and one of our IT experts will be glad to have an initial 30 minute discussion.