Cisco recently predicted that 60 per cent of business workloads globally will be managed via the cloud by 2016, while Gartner has claimed that 80 per cent of organisations intend to use cloud services in some form within 12 months, including 55 per cent of the organisations not doing so today.
The cloud has fast established itself as a fundamental tool in the corporate armoury. Yet whilst it may be accepted as a tool of choice among many small and medium businesses, the reality is that for many – especially those with existing systems in place – it remains the exception and not the rule.
A winning formula
Being able to access business-critical data from everywhere, at any time and on any device can be integral for small and large businesses alike. Offering flexible and scalable installations for lower initial costs than on premise systems, the benefits of the cloud are abundantly clear. But timing is everything, and businesses need to ensure they have examined all the choices available to them before making the move.
What are the other options?
Adopting cloud technology isn’t an all or nothing decision; companies will often retain on-premise solutions or even opt for a hybrid approach (a combination of the two) dependent on their individual needs.
Established businesses that have recently opted for an on-premise solution shouldn’t doubt their choice because of the buzz around cloud. If a business is running efficiently on existing on-premise servers and storage, they should make the most out of the investment to see a tangible return, rather than introducing a new system. The time to reassess software options is when this is no longer the case or when requirements change. For any business, changing software is a big deal so it needs to be a considered decision.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all for business computing, the underlying considerations should be universal. These basic questions are a good place to start before you decide what option will suit you best:
1. What are the challenges that face my business?
Eg. Cash flow, knowing when to expand and invest, unlocking information across your business, retaining customers, business resilience.
2. Do you need access to data outside of the office?
More and more SMEs are embracing flexible working. Having access to data outside of the office is integral to enable employees to work on the road or at home, and something a cloud solution can help with.
3. What problems are you experiencing with your IT infrastructure?
Eg. Lack of data storage, security concerns, lack of flexibility, lack of scalability, need for greater reporting and analysis.
4. Do you need a tailored or scalable solution?
Every business is unique – if you’re looking to expand quickly it’s worth considering implementing a cloud solution that is scalable and allows you to quickly and easily add new users. Some businesses however opt for a solution that can be tailored to their specific requirements in order to complement existing software.
5. What would cloud provide my business with that on-premise doesn’t?
Moving to cloud isn’t right for all businesses, right now. However, cloud does offer flexibility that on-premise doesn’t. It is also significantly easier to scale users up and down when relevant.
There is no wrong or right answer when it comes to selecting cloud, hybrid, or indeed on-premise solutions. It’s ultimately whatever works for the business. The cloud’s many advantages from scalability and flexibility to manageable costs are just a few benefits of the cloud, which are key in today’s hyper-connected world. Yet it’s also important to remember that cloud is merely a deployment method and not the end business result.
Overall, think about what the short and long term priorities of your business are and whether your IT solution will be flexible enough to accommodate your business needs over one, two or five years.
Steve Attwell is managing director for Sage’s UK and Ireland Small and Medium Business division
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