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SMEs Foolish to Ignore Cloud

Article date: Thu, 19 May 2011 10:08 GMT

UKFast_Cloud_Round_TableNo business can afford to ignore the opportunities that cloud technology presents and those that do will quickly lose their competitive edge. This was the warning issued by a panel of business IT experts who gathered at a round table event held by hosting firm UKFast this month. Cloud technology is easily accessible to businesses of all sizes, the panel said. And the benefits it offers - including increased efficiencies, competitiveness and reduced IT costs - should be an "obvious sweet spot" for SMEs. Companies in every industry can reap the benefits of an internet-based IT infrastructure that allows them to extend their reach in the market and play for business prospects that were once beyond them. "It's very difficult to see why or how any business would not benefit from a cloud strategy," says Simon Howitt, channel business unit director at Outsourcery. "How quickly they deploy it and what type of applications they use it for are other questions but thinking of the broadest use of the cloud as a delivery mechanism, I struggle to see how it can't have an appeal to all businesses." Commenting on research carried out by The Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) that showed a high rate of adoption of cloud technology amongst UK organisations, Andy Burton, the CIF's chairman said: "It is as open to a single person or one-man-band firm as it is to an enterprise or government. The barrier to entry is so low because users pay for what they require for as long as they require to use it. "Early adoption has been seen to have been driven by people needing to do something more quickly than on-premise implementation would enable or something they don't have the skills in house to implement. They are demonstrating that they can be agile in the adoption of new capability for their organisations. Typically, it's also much easier and cheaper than they imagined and because of the benefits they are looking to expand their use of it." According to figures from the CIF, 48 per cent of UK organisations have tried a cloud service in some form. Of those, 94 per cent have already achieved satisfaction and 85 per cent plan to invest more this year. Only six per cent of the 450 firms asked said they won't adopt cloud over the next three years. Burton suggested the business community's attitudes towards the technology are changing from "hype and early adoption to pragmatic expansion". Despite concerns around data security, privacy and sovereignty, many bosses are realising that cloud technology can help them solve common business problems quickly and affordably. The flexible nature of the on-demand service makes it invaluable to firms that experience seasonal fluctuations in trade including many retailers. Howitt says: "Business people don't wake up in the morning thinking they have to get into the cloud, they wake up with other business issues that need a solution and the cloud becomes a means to deliver that solution easily." Ian Moyse, IT security expert and EMEA Channel Director at Webroot commented on the opportunities cloud creates for businesses: "It flattens the availability to businesses because they can access applications that they couldn't before because to use a particular vendor app you might have required four servers and database storage and the implementation was too expensive. Now they can get a five user pack of that application that previously only an organisation of 500 users and above could afford." Andrew Corbett of the UK IT Association added: "I think that presents SMEs with a whole load of different challenges. At a certain size you know and accept that you can't access stuff like that. Now, your competitors are looking at it and suddenly the question becomes, am I going to become a leader, a follower or a failure? If you are ignoring it, your competitors certainly aren't." Lawrence Jones, managing director of UKFast agreed that firms should consider how they can use cloud technology but they should invest time in finding out what type of cloud is most suitable to their business needs. He said: "For some organisations a public cloud with some elements of shared resource is fine. For others, only a private cloud with wholly dedicated resources is appropriate for their requirements. In any case, business owners need to research the marketplace thoroughly. "Don't be fooled by slick websites of firms you don't know or trust. The incredible popularity of cloud technology means there will be cowboys taking advantage of businesses that don't know everything about this kind of technology so it's wise to adopt some caution."

Entering the cloud?

5 top tips for businesses considering the cloud.
  • The one-size-fits-all solution doesn't apply, even with something as flexible as cloud. Choose the service that's right for you
  • Do your due diligence on suppliers. Look for memberships/accreditations including the Cloud Industry Forum Self Certification
  • Check the terms and conditions in the supply contract and service level agreement (SLA) to ensure your commercial and operational needs are met.
  • Ask if they will provide out of hours support
  • Understand how the service will integrate (if required) with your wider IT strategy.
  • Check where the data is stored (UK, Europe, elsewhere?) and assess the implications on your business.

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