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Growth in the number of businesses turning to “the cloud” has, in recent years, been constant. Cloud computing now occupies a central role in the modern IT landscape for enterprises and small businesses alike. The key reasons? It enables flexibility, agility and scalability.
According to the latest research from the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF), 84 per cent of SMBs in the UK currently use the cloud, demonstrating a vast increase in usage since 2010, when this figure stood at 48 per cent. What’s more, almost 80 per cent of these firms have adopted more than one cloud service.
Businesses are most likely to use the cloud for webhosting, collaboration services, ecommerce, advertising and online marketing services, and email. But what exactly is the business case for cloud computing, and why are so many SMBs turning to it to meet their everyday business needs?
Reducing capital expenditure is usually the primary motivation for small and medium sized businesses moving their operations to the cloud. As it stands, businesses in Britain currently save around 11 per cent from their use of cloud services, a figure predicted to increase to 19 per cent by 2020.
By using a cloud solutions provider, businesses also benefit from 24/7 access to IT support, along with increased resilience and reliability. Plus there’s fewer in-house IT costs. What’s more, business information is always available and there is less risk of data loss.
The competitive advantage the cloud delivers does not start and end with the bottom line. It also facilitates flexibility, a necessity for SMBs to stay ahead of the curve in today’s competitive landscape. “Pay as you go" style cloud services enable businesses to easily increase their use of cloud as the business grows, or decrease spend if they need to temporarily scale down.
Being flexible with working hours and empowering employees to work remotely can be transformative, with businesses standing to benefit from lower office overheads, improved customer relationships and a more motivated, loyal workforce. However, employees must have access to vital data at all times, even when not in the office. This applies to all processes and communications, from emails and invoicing, to sales data and telephony. Businesses should consider using cloud-based productivity tools for email, calendar and file-sharing, such as Office 365.
Cloud computing also provides a range of less easily quantifiable, intangible benefits. For instance, CIF’s research found that the majority of small and medium sized businesses value advantages such as higher levels of customer service and engagement, improved collaboration between departments and increased employee satisfaction.
The cloud also facilitates a more collaborative way of working. As information is stored and managed centrally, employees can access and work in the same documents in real-time, without the need for hundreds of emails, sharing documents in attachments.
Security remains the primary inhibitor of applications being migrated to the cloud, alongside concerns over the complexity of migration, data sovereignty and dependency on internet access.
70 per cent of UK businesses are concerned about data security in the cloud, an increase of almost 10 per cent since 2014. This is likely to be a result of recent high profile hacks bringing the issue onto the mainstream news agenda. However, these concerns are not reflected in the reality experienced by cloud users, with the latest figures revealing 99 per cent of organisations have never experienced a breach of security.
The perception is that by storing company data “outside” the business, it is insecure. Yet cloud computing can be more secure than traditional, on premise IT solutions, as established cloud providers employ leading security experts, invest vast resources into securing their applications and develop technology well beyond the means of any small business.
Furthermore, thanks to cloud software the risk of losing confidential data on a mobile device, laptop or USB stick is also diminished.
UK businesses are clearly making a move towards cloud, with more firms than ever harnessing its advantages.
The outlook for the industry is sunny. This year more organisations are planning to venture into the cloud for the first time, and for those businesses already in the cloud, additional services are being added every day. CIF’s research predicts that CRM, data backup, disaster recovery services and data storage are the areas set to see the largest increase in adoption over the next 12 months.
UK SMBs are now at a point where entire businesses can be run from the cloud. It’s now a matter of when they make the move, not if.
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