For years ‘the cloud’ has been talked about constantly in business technology circles. And by now you’ll find that most SMB owners are already aware of how cloud computing is transforming the way that companies do business and cuts IT costs. However it’s still a fairly complicated subject if you’re not technically minded and the potential business value of migrating to the cloud might not be that clear.
It might entertain you to know that according to research done by Wakefield research, 54% of SMB’s stated that they had never used cloud technology. And of that 54% it was found that about 95% of them were in fact already in the cloud and had been for years, they just didn’t realise it.
We are going to explain ‘the cloud’ for anyone who perhaps isn’t 100% certain of the details. The cloud is here to stay and the economic benefits make too much sense to ignore.
Put simply, the cloud acts as a storage space. If you imagine your online storage system as a cramped office with files spilling out over the filing cabinets, there is no budget to upgrade offices but it’s becoming chaotic. Then imagine that your building manager offers to rent you an empty filing cabinet in the basement.
The basement is shared with other tenants who have their own filing cabinets and spaces but only you have the key to yours. You move your files into the basement and suddenly your office is less cramped and running more efficiently. And you can pop to the basement to collect files whenever you need. This is a rough analogy of how the cloud works.
Large businesses have higher IT budgets, which allows them to own a massive internal network infrastructure, but SMB’s often don’t have the budget or support to do this. That’s why the cloud has allowed the playing field to be leveled between small, medium and big businesses. It’s an equalizer in many ways. It gives SMB’s the opportunity to do large-scale business at a lower cost.
The cloud is more or less a sexy (if you like that kind of thing) buzzword for the Internet. Or at least the next evolution of the Internet. Anyone who has ever used or hosted an email provider like Gmail has stored sensitive data in the cloud, even if they didn’t realize. Cloud-based email hosting was the first and most broadly adopted cloud service used for both personal and professional use.
Use services like Amazon, Netflix, even Facebook and Twitter? You’re part of the public cloud.
The cloud is big. It’s big and its made up of different elements. It has three deployment models, private, public and hybrid.
Private Clouds are often built by large companies with bigger resourses and deeper pockets than SMB’s. But what has been a game changer for SMB’s is the Public Cloud, public cloud deployments are 100% virtual. This means less hands-on management is required as the infrastructure (hardware, devices, network equipment etc) is all off-premises. And with this an SMB benefits from not having to pay for and manage the hardware, deal with software licensing or updating or pay for empolyees to manage it all.
Cloud migration companies generally offer one of 3 categorised cloud-computing services that are referred to as layers within the cloud. These 3 services are:
Simply put, the cloud hosts an application for any type of work process that an SMB will need.
Reduction of costs: Since the cloud works on mass scale computing, onsite physical storage hardware and internal IT staffing are reduced.
Anytime and Anywhere Access: Since data access is no longer restricted to single employees or physical devices, users can share and collaborate in the cloud at any time and anywhere.
Better collaboration: The cloud is available on demand to computers and devices from any location at any point of time, this allows for better faster collaboration between employees, especially as today’s workforce is increasingly dispersed.
Faster deployment: Cloud-based services can be deployed within just an hour or a few days rather than the weeks or months it often takes to strategically plan, build and implement an internal IT structure.
Environmental friendliness: The clouds energy efficiency is attractive to any company conscientious about the environment and wanting to be ‘green’. For example, having fewer machines to run is obviously more energy efficient.
Improved security: Many SMB’s cite security concerns as the main reason they are reluctant to move to the cloud, however, there are actually very few data breaches involving cloud providers. Data stored in the cloud may actually be safer than data stored on computers and company servers with an array of security vulnerabilities. Unlike a laptop, the cloud can’t be left behind on a train.
Business Continuity: Data storage and back up is one of the most frequently used cloud-based services amongst SMB’s. Many cloud service providers offer SMB’s unlimited storage capability, automated data sync and back up processes that reduce or eliminate downtime events
SMB’s who are still uneasy about a move to the cloud can consider cloud monitoring through a local managed service provider (MSP). Cloud monitoring helps SMBs deploy to the cloud with confidence. Cloud monitoring gives the SMB owner around-the-clock end-to-end visibility into the performance of their cloud services and IT infrastructure. Monitoring services offer SMBs proactive monitoring, automated alerts, and full problem resolution support by way of a fully dedicated 24/7 networks operations center (NOC). Cloud monitoring is also carefully monitored with frequent audits to identify and address vulnerabilities.
The continuous analyzing and testing of your network, website and mobile applications can reduce downtime hugely. And cloud monitoring also tests your email server at regular intervals, which minimizes failure deliveries, and other issues that affect sending and receiving emails.
Concerns about security are still valid but small businesses today may actually be exposing themselves to more breach vulnerabilities by not being in the cloud. The notion that data must be on-site to truly be secure is as misguided as the belief that money is safer tucking beneath a mattress than in the bank.
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