Opinion

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George Osborne recently laid out his 10-point plan to boost productivity in rural areas. But without high-speed internet and reliable cloud services, there is not much hope.

An integral part of this ‘Rural Productivity Plan’ is to enhance the economic output of rural parts of the UK is through the installation of high-speed broadband. 

Osborne stated that super-fast internet connectivity would create “the right conditions for rural economies and businesses to thrive,” and has previously suggested that broadband should become a “basic legal right” across the country. 

While it is true that high speed broadband enables business activity, ”to happen almost anywhere”, it only provides half the answer to improving the competitive position of rural businesses. The other part of the equation is the cloud. 

One of the most important things to think about when considering a transition to the cloud is internet connectivity and speed. 

While the cloud can provide a huge number of benefits to a company - from enhanced mobility, simplified disaster recovery and better use of IT resources, to cost savings - these can only be delivered if a company can connect to the cloud effectively. 

Having numerous workstations trying to access a public cloud simultaneously on a standard internet connection can put a huge amount of stress on ‘normal’ internet connections, and can lead to unforeseen circumstances with connections being reset and slowed to a snail’s pace. 

As the cloud stores business data off site, sometimes outside the country in the case of some large hyperscalers, it is important to ensure that your business has the right measures in place to connect to these centres. Investing in high-speed broadband or dedicated fibre connectivity will make the experience of using the cloud much more fulfilling for your business. 

There are a number of ways to improve connectivity to the cloud, from thinking strategically about what is put on and off site, to choosing where your data is held. 

For many businesses, the best approach to their business’ IT is through a hybrid cloud. The hybrid cloud is a blend of public and private cloud services, which gives companies flexibility about what information is held on site. 

For items that are accessed frequently, such as desktop applications, it is probably best for them to be stored on site to limit traffic accessing the public cloud provider.

Businesses concerned about data sovereignty and connectivity can also choose a cloud provider that stores all data nationally. It is faster to connect to a cloud provider if they have a data centre nearby.

Read more about boosting Britain's productivity:

The cloud can bring a number of benefits to medium-sized businesses, all of which will be more achievable when regional areas are served by the roll-out of high-speed broadband.

As well as the increased mobility and responsiveness the cloud can provide, there are also benefits with regards to disaster recovery and data storage. Having business data stored off site can help a business when an unexpected situation arises, as it is much easier to both recover from the incident, as well as maintaining business continuity and limiting the time of service disruption. 

The cloud can also support the effective storage of data, as according to Dragon Slayer Consulting, 80 per cent of unstructured data is inactive after 72 hours, and is highly unlikely to ever be accessed again. With the cloud, this unused data can be archived offsite where it can be accessed, but won’t slow down business operations. 

While the cloud is undoubtedly one of the biggest recent business IT game changers, it is not a one-step process for a business to migrate to the cloud. 

There are important things to bear in mind when considering a cloud solution, from what data and operations to store on it, to how it can tie into your business’ disaster recovery plans. 

The Chancellor’s push for high-speed broadband across the country should be commended; as if it is done correctly it will spur a productivity revolution for the UK’s rural businesses.

Mark Scaife is head of technical development at Phoenix.

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