Over the last 10 years cloud computing has become one of the hottest topics both for the media and businesses across the globe. According to the IDC, 64% of SMEs use at least one cloud-based service in some shape or form. Surprisingly not everybody realises they are using it and this has meant that the uptake of full cloud solutions amongst small businesses is relatively low. This has denied them a chance to move forward, compete with larger organisations and grow. This article takes a look at the problem small business owners face with cloud computing and the various benefits of it should they opt into the cloud to replace some, or all of their IT processes and infrastructure.
Problems Facing Small Business Owners
One of the major issues faced by small businesses when it comes to their IT systems is that the owner is often run off their feet with so many other different tasks that IT takes a back-seat role. Sales, paying suppliers and making contacts, all whilst trying to make a profit are clearly a business owners priority. Because of that small business owners don’t have enough time to analyse the various benefits of different IT systems or cloud computing. As a consequence deciding on traditional IT, cloud computing; whether Google apps or Microsoft 365 is the right choice for the businesses IT requirements is very rarely a priority.
This usually means business owners stall and delay making IT related decisions; thus sticking with what they have, even though it may be costing them more money to run than an alternative. Or they end up adopting a sketchy, bit by bit approach that is often hard to change should the company grow.
Speaking with businesses across Yorkshire about our hosted desktops, we’ve found a distinct knowledge gap between small business owners and solution providers like ourselves. A number of business owners fail to understand they already use the cloud in some form and reap the benefits of it; thus meaning embracing the cloud further isn’t too big a step. To narrow the gap, it’s essential for cloud-computing providers to work together to inform people about these products and services; be it with a beginners guides to cloud computing or via seminars and meet ups. Once small businesses fully understand cloud computing, the uptake will increase exponentially.
They Feel like They Don’t Need Cloud Computing
Unfortunately cloud computing is still perceived as an exclusive technology for the big corporates. This is primarily down to the way cloud computing companies package their services but also because of the way it’s reported within the technology news sector. If business owners are constantly presented with the cloud only being used by bigger organisations then they ultimately fail to see the benefits for themselves; immediately ruling it out as been too expensive or too complicated.
The Nature of Their Operation
Many small businesses have been operating the same way for many years, thus they feel no need to change and become ignorant to new technologies. Smaller businesses have comparatively less employees, less data/files and fewer layers of middle management. Consequently many tasks can be managed easily without having to use significant technology and that means cloud uptake by smaller businesses is low. However cloud computing presents several areas of opportunity for businesses to both save money, grow and take advantage of economies of scale. In the long term with businesses keen on future growth and security of their records and files, cloud computing becomes an almost inevitable choice.
How Can Small Businesses Benefit from Cloud Computing?
Businesses can gain huge benefits from the cloud and the technology lends itself perfectly to SME’s as it can grow with the business – far more so than a static, office-based server can.
The cloud provides:
- High levels of security by storing files in a secure location, not on a PC or in-house server
- Access to files no matter where you are – in or outside the office (perfect for sales teams)
- Regular upgrades and access to more advanced/enterprise level technology
- Increased storage
The complexity and cost of integrating a backup, security, disaster recovery and business continuity plan via an in house IT infrastructure is often an unviable option for small businesses leaving them exposed and at risk to unforeseen circumstances. Cloud computing services are provided with guaranteed service level agreements ensuring services are always available. With the cloud your data is held in highly secure data centres with data being replicated in real time so that if you lose something, it can be instantly restored.
By using cloud computing small businesses no longer need to purchase or lease expensive computer equipment such as servers or backup equipment. Nor does it need to purchase costly software on a per PC basis to deliver its resources to employees. Savings vary from business to business but total costs of ownership savings in the region of 30-50% are common.
With on site downtime, employee productivity is seriously effected. This can have huge impact on the business as well as increasing both the stress on employees and the management team. With cloud computing, employees can work remotely and at any time. Employees can work from home by accessing the software through internet connection, meaning if they can’t get into the office due to adverse weather, the day isn’t a total write off.
Ease of management
The cloud significantly simplifies the IT management for many small businesses because the service is fully managed. Any support needs are simply reported to the service provider who is then responsible for fixing them.
Access to Enterprise Level Technology
Large organisations have the cash and resources to create the bespoke functionality they need. Small companies more often than not do not. With the cloud they’re able to take advantage of enterprise class cloud applications that fit their exact requirements. No longer do businesses have to reinvent the wheel with their own platforms, they can leverage development, maintenance and upgrades of third party applications for a fraction of the cost.
How Else Can Cloud Computing Help Small Businesses?
The cloud allows business owners to both simplify and better forecast an IT budget. Traditional IT setups can eat up a huge part of the company’s budget due to the up-front cost of hardware and the on-going fee of upgrades, security and inevitable downtime. With the cloud all these capital investments are borne by the provider, all the business owner has to account for is the providers monthly subscription fee per user. There is also no need to invest in more IT based on the anticipation of future demand because the cloud is scalable as and when you need it.
By using the cloud business owners are able to better manage uncertainties. By investing in expensive hardware/server, a company is exposed to greater risks. Many businesses often overinvest in an IT system which leads to greater on going management expenses. Cloud computing providers reduce a business’s reliance on in house technology by removing the liability of procurement, management and upgrades as that’s all taken care of in an external data centre. This allows businesses to pursue growth without having to bear the uncertainties of large capital outlay.
Head and Editor in Chief of EcmaScript2017 Journal. Senior JS Back-end Full stack developer and software architect.