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The title of this article is a little misleading because it suggests that many Small Businesses are not already utilising Cloud Computing in some capacity. However, the truth is that most Businesses already have one or more of their IT Applications or Systems running in the Cloud.
As a service model, Cloud Computing presents many Commercial and Financial advantages to both Small Businesses and Medium to Large Enterprise. This article presents these advantages, in addition to several potential risks and drawbacks that need to be considered before you commit to migrating more of your IT workload to the Cloud.
What are the different Cloud “Service models?”
The following Cloud Services models are the most Commonly used in Business:
- IaaS – This stands for ‘Infrastructure as a Service’, a service model that allows you to lease dedicated or virtual computing resources that are hosted and maintained in a Datacentre. Examples of IaaS include Data storage, Server and application Virtualisation, Networking and Network Security.
- PaaS – This stands for ‘Platform as a Service’, a service model that provides a platform for developing applications, databases, interfaces and more. Examples of PaaS include Microsoft Azure, Google App Engine and AWS Elastic Beanstalk.
- SaaS – This stands for ‘Software as a Service’, a service model that provides software on a subscription-basis from the Cloud. This is the most commonly used Services Model by Small Businesses. Examples of SaaS include Office 365, G-Suite, Salesforce and accounting software such as Sage Cloud and Xero.
Here’s 10 essential reasons to move your Business to the Cloud.
The below list contains several commercial and financial reasons that will help you make a compelling Business Case to move one or more of your IT Services and Systems to the Cloud.
1. Control operational costs by switching from a CAPEX to OPEX service model.
Switching from a CAPEX to OPEX service model is one of the main Financial advantages of moving one or more of your IT elements to the Cloud, especially if you are working within a restricted annual IT Budget. For example, Small Businesses can release essential funds by switching to a subscription-based software service, instead of purchasing traditional volume licences upfront.
Need a new Windows Server but can’t afford the initial outlay? The answer is to lease either a dedicated server or Virtual Server space from a data centre in the Cloud. This is just one example of how the ‘Infrastructure as a Service’ Cloud services model can save you thousands in IT expenditure costs by replacing these costs with a manageable monthly fee.
2. Reduce your operational costs.
This is one of the biggest Cloud Computing benefits. In addition to the above examples, switching to the Cloud can help you reduce your overall operational costs in the following ways:
- Reduce your energy usage – Consolidating one or more of your servers to the Cloud will help to reduce your annual energy bills.
- Eliminate software upgrade costs – Subscription-based software is automatically updated to the latest version, which means that you don’t have to pay for costly annual or bi-annual upgrades.
- Replace your antiquated Windows PCs with ‘Thin Clients’ – Thin Client PCs are at least 50% cheaper than a traditional PC configuration because they require less moving parts. Thin Clients can be used to run a ‘Hosted Windows Desktop’, a Cloud-based subscription service that replaces your traditional Windows desktop with a hosted solution that incorporates your files, applications and emails.
3. Do your bit for the environment.
By reducing your energy usage, you’ll also reduce your Organisations Carbon Footprint. This article suggests that Small Businesses and start-ups can reduce their e-waste by as much as 90%. This percentage sounds a little ambitious, however, HUGE power savings can be made by consolidating your on-premise servers to the Cloud and replacing your dated PCs with Thin Client hardware.
Moving to the Cloud doesn’t mean that you’re transferring your Carbon Footprint to a third party. Data centre efficiency has improved exponentially in recent years thanks to advances in technology resource and storage efficiency.
4. Better manage increased traffic.
Small Businesses that run e-commerce websites or provide Apps to consumers may find it hard to manage an inevitable increase in traffic if you host your platform internally. By using a Platform as a Service such as Microsoft Azure, you can scale the resources you’re using on fly, such as bandwidth, storage and processing power.
5. Reduced support and maintenance requirements.
Within reason, Cloud-based services are the responsibility of the vendor. For example, Microsoft is responsible for all regular updates, patching and Security of Office 365 Business. When it comes to server hosting however, you are responsible for any software that you run on a dedicated or virtual server, but the vendor is responsible for maintaining the hardware and ensuring maximum up-time.
By reducing your ongoing support and maintenance requirements, you’ll place less pressure on your staff and you’ll also be able to reduce your internal/outsourced IT management costs.
6. Better Manage Storage demands.
If your Business is from the Media/Creative sector then it’s highly likely that you have demanding storage requirements for images, videos and other forms of media. By utilising a Cloud-based storage platform, you’ll be able to scale your storage requirements as your Business needs change, and you’ll only ever pay for the storage capacity you use.
7. Ensure Business Continuity.
If you’re a start-up or a Small Business that’s only been established for a short period of time, then it’s highly likely that a Disaster Recovery plan is quite low on your list of priorities! By utilising one or More Cloud Services, you can ensure that your data and your applications remain safe, secure and accessible at all times. In addition, many (if not most) Cloud services provide an additional layer of redundancy by replicating your data and systems at a secondary data centre, just like we do!
When compared to a Traditional Disaster Recovery solution, Cloud-based Disaster Recovery services offer an affordable way for start-ups and Small Businesses to implement a Disaster recovery plan at a fraction of the cost.
8. Cloud-based services are fully scalable.
Every Cloud-based service that’s available to start-ups and small Businesses can be scaled to your Business needs. If you find one that isn’t, then don’t use it! For example, with Googles ‘G suite’ productivity suite, you can add and remote new user accounts as you require them. You’ll also be able to change your subscription plan on the fly.
Scalable Cloud-based services will help to keep your Business IT costs controlled by ensuring that you don’t continue to pay for any products and services that are not in use.
9. Provide your own clients with a Cloud-based service.
Its 2019, no one installs software locally anymore! Software developers can utilise services such as Microsoft Azure or AWS to host their Clients bespoke applications. This also improves the Customer Service experience by allowing your Clients to access their software from any device with an internet connection and a browser.
10. Improve your IT Security.
One of the most important Cloud Computing Advantages in 2019. With the introduction of the GDPR, it has never been more important to ensure the security of your Business and client sensitive data. By using one or more Cloud services, your data will be stored in a safe and secure Cloud-services environment, which is accessible at any time. By securely saving your data in the Cloud, you mitigate the risk of locally saved data falling into the wrong hands in the event of a theft or Human Error.
Potential risks that need to be considered.
Although there are many Cloud Computing Benefits, there are also some potential risks that need to be considered. We’ve bullet pointed some of the most important risks below:
- GDPR considerations – If you retain the personally identifiable information of clients and staff that are located in the EU, then you will not be able to store this data on a service that is hosted in a Country outside of the European union.
- If it isn’t broke, why fix it? – If you are happy with your existing internal IT configuration and there are no immediate problems, then you may wish to consider putting the switch on hold unless you are under financial pressure to retire your in-house setup.
- Not all Applications are suited to the Cloud – If you wish to move one or more bespoke or 3rd party applications to the Cloud, then you will need to speak with the software developer first to ensure it is legal to run the software in a Cloud environment. You will also need to make sure that there will be no compatibility issues between the software and the Cloud architecture.
- Consider your internet speed – There will be no issue with the Internet speed provided by your data centre, but if you have poor internet connectivity at your office, then the last thing you want to do is move everything to the Cloud. In addition, if you provide your clients with a software application, then also consider their internet speed if you are considering a transition from providing a locally installed app to a Cloud-based application.
- Check your contract length – Don’t get tied into any lengthy service contracts. Cloud vendors should offer their services with a one-month rolling contract, which means they have the highest confidence in their service platform.
The future is bright for Small Businesses that utilise the Cloud. Thanks to recent advances in Cloud Technology, it has never been easier or more affordable for start-ups and Small Businesses to access a comprehensive range of Software Applications, Hardware Services and development platforms that will provide all of the tools needed to drive their productivity and Business growth.