Why investing in Cloud services for your small business will pay off

By February 22, 2023 No Comments

If you think that Cloud computing and small business belong in a different sentence, then you might want to think again. The simple truth is that SMBs need effective Cloud solutions that make them more technology-aligned and agile to deal with what is a rapidly changing business landscape. At the same time, Cloud services have become increasingly cost-effective with mature products that deliver enterprise-grade capabilities to smaller businesses at a reasonable price point.

Here we take a deep dive into the subject, including:

What exactly are Cloud services?

Cloud-hosted services provide on-demand access to different business applications (storage, processing, apps, infrastructure, etc.), usually for the cost of a licence fee – or increasingly an ongoing subscription. It’s called the “Cloud” because all data, software, and hardware need to run the application are located remotely from your business and can be accessed from anywhere using internet-connected devices. The big benefit for SMBs, however, is that these services are now often Cloud managed solutions. Which means that you don’t have to worry about the day-to-day running or maintenance of the Cloud services you are using – and can focus 100% on developing your business instead.

Why are Cloud services becoming essential for SMBs?

The Cloud is now the foremost battleground on which SMBs compete with each other and larger-scale enterprises. Take a business application like Microsoft Dynamics 365 which provides SMBs with fairly sophisticated CRM and ERP capability. Step back 7 or 8 years and this type of application was the preserve of big companies and simply wasn’t affordable for smaller businesses.

Fast forward to now and Dynamics is becoming an essential part of business infrastructure for many small businesses. As an experienced Microsoft Dynamics 365 partner we are increasingly working with these businesses which are looking to leverage the agility and cost benefits of integrated CRM and ERP functionality (take a look at our Dynamics 365 case studies for the likes of Rautomead and Kennox Asset Management).

To better understand what makes transitioning to the Cloud so essential to SMBs, let’s look at the types of Cloud services and their benefits.

Types of Cloud services to look into

There are range of different types of Cloud services and applications that businesses can look into including:

SaaS (Software-as-a-Service)

If you are starting out on your Cloud journey it is highly likely that you are either considering or using SaaS offerings in some shape or form.

In this model, the SaaS provider delivers a Cloud-based application solution that your business can subscribe to. Applications are hosted and run on cloud-based architectures with all of the hassle around management, security and upgrades being dealt with by the SaaS provider.

According to Forbes 56% of SMBs use more than five cloud-based applications. That’s because you can find a SaaS solution for just about anything. Examples include:

All of these type of SaaS applications give SMBs access to cost-effective and scalable applications with enterprise-grade features and quality.

Cloud Hosting

SMBs are increasingly operating, transacting and engaging with customers online. Hosting is the infrastructure and technology used to facilitate this type of online information sharing. And in some ways, it encompasses other types of Cloud services.

Cloud Storage

Cloud hosting doesn’t always offer storage that can handle data at all scales. And it is possible that your business might have to invest in separate cloud storage solutions, like Amazon AWS, Google Cloud Storage, Microsoft Azure, etc. Cloud storage needs to be secure, accessible, and scalable – as well as meeting compliance and governance standards.

Cloud Backup Services

For many businesses, their data is the most important asset they have. It contains important customer information for marketing, lead generation, sales, and potentially sensitive IP (intellectual property). And news around the increasing number of customer data breaches and targeting of small businesses means more and more businesses are waking up to the need for effective backup and security of data. As part of a wider IT security solution.

Businesses of all sizes must have robust backup systems to prevent the loss of valuable information that can impact their bottom line or disrupt operations. Server crashes, disasters, or cyberattacks are very real and credible threats to business data that you must guard against.

More sophisticated Cloud applications

Depending on how far you want to go there are also more heavyweight Cloud applications including:

·        PaaS (Platform-as-a-service)

PaaS solutions are cloud application platforms that allow clients to provision, instantiate, run and manage their own development and deployment environment.

·        IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service)

IaaS is a concept similar to PaaS, but the customer more directly leases the infrastructure. This includes computing, servers, virtual machines, networks, storage systems, etc.

However, the likelihood is, are you embark on your Cloud journey, it is unlikely that you will come across either in the early stages. Or even at all, if your business requirements do not stretch that far

Benefits of Investing in the Cloud

Of course, there are specific benefits to implementing particular types of Cloud services for small businesses. However, companies investing in the Cloud can expect the following general benefits:

  • Fast, easy, and remote access to data: Cloud-based services are accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. You typically don’t need a specific type of device to access the data and anyone with the right credentials and permissions can use them
  • Single source of truth: Cloud services are a central hub of information that’s always up to date. Which means that different stakeholders from a range of different internal departments from sales to finance are looking at one version of the truth. And can use it to update data, documents, etc., in real-time – and avoid the significant costs associated with separate data silos
  • Scalability: One of the key benefits of Cloud solutions is how quickly they scale up and down to meet changing business needs. The reality is that Cloud providers for small business own cloud infrastructure on a scale that’s far beyond what most SMBs can afford – and they take the risk of delivering business applications against this for a regular fee.
  • Security: Cloud services have a vested interest in making their services as secure as possible. They usually offer out-of-the-box security, like IAM (identity access management), SSO (single sign-on) or role-based access controls, etc. They also typically offer built-in backup and disaster recovery solutions to prevent loss or theft of data.
  • Cost-effective: You can think of a Cloud service provider as a wholesaler of Cloud infrastructure. Because businesses effectively rent infrastructure, they can offer it at a much more cost-effective price point than purchasing the infrastructure outright. Which can really help with budgeting for your IT costs. They also manage the infrastructure, removing the maintenance burden from customers. Which all adds up to a more cost-effective approach to IT service delivery.

Potential adopters should be aware of some potential drawbacks and concerns regarding cloud services. Without the proper expertise, they can lead to a lack of visibility and control, security threats and non-compliance. However, the benefits far outweigh the potential cons, particularly if you leverage the expertise of a trusted and experienced managed IT services provider.

Some things to be aware of when choosing Cloud services

Typically, cloud services are more cost-effective than developing, implementing, deploying, and managing the same technology in-house.

However, it is good practice to properly assess the financials before you jump into a contract with an application provider.

Some key things to look for are:

  • Flexible pricing: As you are leasing resources from an external party, you generally have less say in how much you pay and the terms which can change over time. So look for flexible terms like pay-as-you go pricing models which don’t lock your business in longer-term
  • Look at lifetime cost of ownership: While low-cost monthly adoption of Cloud business applications can be attractive it doesn’t suit every scenario. So something that makes absolute financial sense in the first 6-12 months of a contract can often end up costing more in the long run. Particularly if you are paying for custom features that begin to add to the cost of the solution as things scale
  •  Switching costs: It is also worth checking on the extra costs associated with ending a Cloud contract and switching to another provider which can be prohibitive. And the hidden costs can be around being able to port your data over to a new solution. So explore the implications of that upfront and find out if there are established integrations that can help smooth the process if needed

This is where you can really benefit from an independent view on your own specific needs from an IT specialist that is dealing with the same type of assessments and decisions for customers on a daily basis. And that can offer the type of Cloud managed services you need to stay on top of new developments.

Effective support for the move to the Cloud is the differentiator

There is little doubt that the Cloud offers a huge upside to small and medium-sized businesses.

Implemented properly it can become a huge differentiator for your business that ensures you find, close and support new customer relationships in a fraction of the time it took before.

At Managed IT Experts we specialise in delivering Cloud solutions for small business in the UK. And our experience of delivering solutions based on the Microsoft business applications suite is second to none – delivering rapid business benefits and minimizing risk. We view Cloud as a journey rather than a one-off project which means we can get you up and running quickly while we continue to build out capabilities to support your business.

So whether you have a question about getting started with Microsoft Dynamics 365 or the development of a full-blown Cloud solution to support your business we can help.

Request a no-obligation initial consultation with one of our Cloud Experts now.