The clouds are rising. The use of cloud technology in small business has become so ubiquitous, one commentator has remarked ‘the cloud revolution has now reached mom and pop shops.’
And the numbers would support this according to the latest Inuit study, 64% of small businesses across the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK now run their operations in the cloud, a number that is drastically up from just 37% in 2015.
Part of the reason is attributed to the familiarity users have with social media networks. When founder of Kounta, Nick Cloete spoke to CeBIT Australia last year, he noticed that customers were becoming much more proactive with the technology, stating: ‘Other services have paved the way for cloud-based services, so many merchants do feel very comfortable using the technology, thanks to consumer-facing services like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.’ Yet familiarity is only a small part of the equation. Cloud-based services have now evolved to a point where the technology presents cheaper and more agile solutions for smaller businesses. So how is cloud-based technology making life easier for SMEs?
1. It minimises expenses
This is the most obvious, and most compelling reason for businesses to make the move to cloud. Integrating cloud technology makes a number of business objectives cheaper. It cuts down on storage space (say goodbye to your bulky filing cabinet), it can help you streamline your administrative functions like rostering, payroll and paying bills.
It also can save businesses significant money on infrastructure and IT maintenance costs (although as TechRepublic points out, unlike software, you won’t just pay an initial cost, rather you will pay an ongoing subscription, which can add up over time).
2. It’s flexible
The cloud allows you and your staff to log on anywhere across multiple devices, promoting agility throughout the workforce. It also means that staff do not have to be chained to the desk, allowing you to manage remote workers. As studies have shown, telecommuting makes for happier, more productive staff, opens up the talent pool, and improves retention rates.
3. It encourages collaboration
Cloud technology opens up your workforce in more way than one. Given how easy it is to communicate and share, your brainstorming sessions are no longer relegated to the boardroom. If a staff member has access to the system, then they can jump on and simultaneously add their expertise to a customer file/document/quote without running into version control issues or overwrites. When inspiration hits, you no longer need to scribble it down on a post-it, before you can get the chance to add two cents, or if you’re having issues, you can immediately flag and get resolution, keeping momentum flowing.
4. You can benefit from wider community knowledge
And it’s not just your colleagues who can inspire you. Many cloud-based services have communities where you can go on, get advice on how to best use the capabilities of the platform or troubleshoot. Great examples of this are The Google Docs community, The Xero Community forum or MailChimp’s private customer community forum.
5. It’s scalable
Another reason that businesses find cloud based systems so compelling, is that they can scale very quickly. If you’ve got a round of funding, or a heavier-than-anticipated workload, you can add applications as you need them, and scale it back when business becomes quieter. As there are no infrastructure costs associated with this, you’re not stuck with hardware around the office, gathering dust in the quieter months.
6. Disaster can be averted
Not so long ago, a computer crash while you were busting out a last-minute PowerPoint presentation could spell utter disaster. Logging back on, frantically trying to recover your work, until you had to come to the sad conclusion that your brilliance had been lost and the only solution was to start again. Cloud technology mitigates that fear by keeping the data on your application’s cloud provider’s servers. It is also important to point out that most cloud-based companies will offer you a Service Level Agreement (SLA). This is important because, if disaster were to struck, then your provider could be liable. At your end, it’s good to ensure that security compliance is maintained by ingraining a best-practice policy in your business.
7. It’s good for mother earth
Onboarding onto cloud applications largely means saying adios to paper. It’s not only good for your business, it’s great for the environment. Even though there were concerns about that energy usage would spike, the reality is that it’s enterprise data infrastructure that causes the electricity bill to go up. As InfoWorld reports:
What makes the cloud green is if enterprises stop building new data centers every time they run out of capacity, and instead turn to cloud providers. Enterprises spend millions of dollars each year adding data center infrastructure in support of many servers running at about 3 to 5 percent capacity. That wastes not only energy in usage, but also in the server's creation, plus a whole lot of raw materials, too.
This also equates to less running costs for businesses, especially if the are using newer, energy-efficient devices.
Rise with the cloud
The cloud affords SMEs an opportunity to run their business in a more efficient, agile and enjoyable way. As the figures in the introduction have shown, cloud-based technology is fast becoming pervasive, and it’s fairly new. As the technology further develops, it will be fascinating to see how it will shape the way we conduct our working lives. If you’re interested in how cloud technology may transform your business, you should download Cloud 2017 @ CeBIT program today.