What is ‘The Cloud’ and why is it the Number 1 choice for SME’s?

Although more and more businesses are enjoying the benefits of cloud computing, there are still lots of companies out there who have yet to take advantage of this growing trend. If you’re among these people, but don’t want to miss out on the benefits the cloud can bring, hopefully I can help you get to grips with it.

As with any IT innovation, one of the biggest obstacles is understanding the jargon. The great thing about the cloud, however, is that while the technology may be sophisticated, it’s been designed to be user-friendly and to reduce, rather than cause, hassle.

Avoid jargon and make it as simple as ABCSimply speaking…

Operating in the cloud means nothing more than accessing company data or software that is hosted on a provider’s server via the internet. This is done with the aid of a client (or in other words, the device by which you access the resources available to you). When the cloud is involved, it is known as a cloud client: it could be your PC, laptop or mobile device. Effectively, this frees you from the need to acquire and maintain expensive hardware or programs and what’s more, you don’t need to worry about protecting your data.

Still confused? Well, the reality is you’re probably already using a cloud-based service without even knowing it. For example, instead of holding a list of all your Skype contacts on your PC, you can access Skype and your contacts via the internet. Similarly, you don’t need an external hard drive to store your holiday photos, as your entire album can be securely stored with Picasa or Google Drive. The benefits are obvious – now it’s time for your organisation to tap into the power of the cloud as well.

Get the right option for you and your business…but is it for me?

According to TheInfoPro, the worldwide cloud computing market will grow at a 36% compound annual growth rate through to 2016 and will reach a market size of US $19.5B by 2016 – proof of just how many companies are succumbing to the lure of the cloud. What’s more, cloud deployment isn’t just for enterprise-size companies as many people think – in fact, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms are the most in demand cloud-based service among SMEs.

There’s a good reason behind this: for companies with fewer than 100 staff, it makes great financial sense to opt for a cloud rather than an on-premise solution, as there’s no need to run servers or pay in-house IT staff. What’s more, essential software upgrades are much cheaper – or free – with the cloud, which can be particularly useful for SMEs looking to keep costs low.

Our own research has shown that the ability to scale a system up or down depending on the number of users is seen as a key advantage by SMEs – this flexibility means that businesses don’t have to worry about how the system will cope (or what it will cost) if they lose or gain staff. Plus, with ever-improving security, it’s little surprise that businesses are switching on to the power of the cloud.

Previously seen as an IT decision, moving to the cloud is now understood as more of a strategic step aimed at enhancing business operations. A recent IBM infographic lists the top reasons companies have cited for moving to the cloud: seamless data sharing, better access to analytics and insight, enhanced productivity and greater flexibility in achieving technological upgrades are figure higly. So while sometimes standing aside from trends is better, the cloud is no trend. The cloud is the future.
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