How important is the cloud for SMEs? Well, the short answer would be “very” – but that would be oversimplifying things. Cloud services, cloud computing, the cloud – however we may refer to the technologies that fall under whichever umbrella term you’re most familiar with, the business models of nearly all cloud-based solutions have been constructed to serve the SME.
Through economies of scale, the cloud enables small and medium sized enterprises access to powerful technologies that were previously the reserve of the large corporation. Be it hosted VoIP for professional communications, server infrastructure for building and/or mass deployment of software applications, Online Backup or Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS), the cloud has a scalable, pay-for-what-you-use solution for practically every digital function the modern business needs.
Put very simply, the cloud has lowered the entry point and democratised access to some of the world’s most transformative technologies – and it’s the SME that reaps the benefits.
What Makes The Cloud Important For The Modern SME
First and foremost, the cloud offers a whole host of affordable, pay-as-you-go solutions. By utilizing a cloud service, the up-front high-cost expenses of hardware are completely eradicated. The SME simply rents the service from the cloud provider using a model that chimes with the business’s cash flow.
With Software as a Service (SaaS), there’s no enormous licence fee to cough up to equip all employees with the software they need. With Backup as a Service (BaaS), there’s no need to fork out for in-house servers to backup all of the company’s files, nor indeed the ongoing costs for maintenance, management and upgrades. With a hosted VoIP solution, there is no need to purchase, run and maintain expensive in-house PBX (private branch exchange) systems.
These are just three examples, but, in short, the cloud provides affordable access to high-grade services, the costs of which would otherwise be prohibitive for SMEs purchasing, managing and maintaining these technologies in-house.
Following on from the first point, scalability is baked into cloud solutions. The whole idea of the cloud is that it will scale with your business. If the SME’s business needs increase, it’s extremely simple to scale up the cloud capacity to accommodate. And the same works in reverse.
Since all a user needs to access a business’s cloud-based technologies is an internet connection, business flexibility is practically unlimited. With the rise of the remote worker, many modern enterprises will have a workforce that expects to be able to work from home at least some of the time. In addition, businesses with field workers or CEOs who need to be able to stay connected whilst travelling all benefit from the flexibility that the cloud provides. Put simply, cloud technologies are accessible from anywhere, and SMEs who utilise them need no longer be static as all digital assets are accessible by anyone with authorisation, anywhere they happen to be.
4. Disaster Recovery
Research from Aberdeen Group reveals that small businesses are twice as likely to have a DRaaS solution than larger companies – and with good reason. Data loss is up 400% according to a press release from EMC, which also reveals the following:
- Data loss and downtime costs enterprises $1.7 trillion (£1.1 billion)
- 71% of IT professionals do not feel fully confident that they would be able to recover lost data following a breach or other disaster
- 52% of organisations lack any sort of Disaster Recovery plan
- Only 6% have recovery plans for mobile, hybrid cloud and big data
- Only 2% of working organisations are considered to be “leaders” in their data protection efforts
These are worrying statistics, especially when we take into consideration a report from Carbonite, which compiles the survey results of 500 IT professionals from SMEs with fewer than 100 employees. The research reveals that a staggering 40% of those interviewed believe that “it’s likely their companies would go out of business if they permanently lost all their files, and 58% are not very prepared to experience any amount of data loss.”
Furthermore, the report cites that “62% had experienced the painful results of data loss and 33% of those reported profit loss as a result. The IT pros surveyed believe it would cost their companies an average of £305,267 in lost revenue if they lost all their data files.”
In other words, disasters of this nature are not an option for SMEs, and so cloud-based DRaaS solutions are the only meaningful guards against them.
When SMEs move to the cloud, they instantly gain access to enterprise-grade technology, meaning that they have the ability to compete on a level-playing field with well-established and even corporate-sized rivals. Competition will always be rife in the business world, and it has to be said that those SMEs who fail to start utilising what the cloud can offer will put themselves at a considerable disadvantage in the marketplace. Pay-as-you-go cloud models mean that Davids can take on Goliaths in terms of technological power, can disrupt the market in all manner of ways, and all whilst remaining small, lean and nimble.
Put all this together and combine it with environmental sustainability, heightened security, greater collaboration abilities and continuous automatic updates, the cloud is an indisputably invaluable addition to the SME landscape, and many businesses would simply collapse or fail to get off the ground without it. It’s as simple as that.