Why cloud computing for small businesses is a powerful solution

Source – telegraph.co.uk

What kind of business has the billing capability of a telecommunications giant, the e-commerce platform of a global online retailer and the security capability of a government agency?

Potentially any kind of business, as it happens. Today businesses of all sizes are accessing technological capabilities that were once the preserve of large companies simply by tapping into the cloud – an internet-based form of computing where processing resources and data are shared with computers and other devices on demand.

The cloud can be used for a host of business purposes, from storing and sharing documents and data through to accounting, collaboration, file backup and inspecting web and email traffic for viruses and spyware.

What’s more, it offers substantial cost savings by bundling together application development, infrastructure, maintenance and support services and allowing organisations to only pay for the services that they use.

Unsurprisingly, then, the global cloud services market is estimated to be worth $246.8 billion (£190bn) in 2017, according to analyst Gartner, with cloud adoption strategies likely to influence more than 50 per cent of IT outsourcing deals by 2020.

It is not just computing power that makes the cloud so influential. The technology also enables businesses to be more agile in how they create new products and services, respond to their customers and fend off competitive threats.

“In the last few years, the cloud has transformed businesses in a way that we could never have imagined,” says Andrew Lowe, operations, EALA infrastructure, cloud strategy and origination lead at consulting firm Accenture. “It allows organisations to tap new capabilities and rebuild their services and processes at a rapid pace.”

For start-ups, the process of adopting cloud as a service for business tools is relatively straightforward since they aren’t weighed down by cumbersome legacy systems. It is more challenging for established businesses to migrate since they have legacy applications and infrastructure that are not in the cloud. Fortunately, however, they are also likely to have experienced staff with strong technological skillsets – so moving to the cloud will give these staff the opportunity to use their skillsets in new and different ways.

As an example, capacity management skills will become redundant since capacity in a cloud world is theoretically infinite. So businesses can reassign their experts in this area to the management of finite budgets instead, giving them responsibility for forecasting demand and driving efficiency savings. Most companies are not geared up to adopt new technology at a rapid pace, but the agility of the cloud helps to improve the overall flexibility of the IT environment. In particular, it moves the IT team from being a traditional support function to taking a more proactive and strategic role within the company.

The most successful migrations to the cloud usually occur when a company embraces cloud as an enabler to its business goals as opposed to seeing it as a solution to its IT infrastructure problems. “Moving to the cloud can be a complex and challenging process,” says Mr Lowe.

“Before undertaking such a move, you need to understand the end-to-end business benefits and outcomes. What is the strategy you are looking to achieve and what agility  will it deliver back to you and your customers? Also, how will you undertake that migration? It is fundamental to understand the applications, processes and services that are being migrated. Simply moving to the cloud is not the end game. Understanding and realising the benefits of moving to the cloud requires on-going management and optimisation of the services.”

Making effective use of the cloud is a three-stage process, according to Accenture.

The first stage consists of defining at the outset exactly how the cloud will support the organisation, including which applications and processes will be moved onto it and which cloud infrastructure will best meet the business’s needs while minimising complexities and risks.

Next is the formal stage where applications are migrated onto the right cloud environment in a disciplined way. “Identifying applications that can be moved to the cloud requires organisations to have a fundamental understanding of the application itself, what it’s supporting and the business services that it’s delivering to clients and customers,” explains Mr Lowe.

The final stage is to embrace the agile approach to project management and the cultural change that it brings. The agile approach, which aims to achieve small goals quickly, is better suited to fast-moving technology projects than the step-by-step waterfall approach traditionally used on construction projects.

By enabling smaller companies to take on the multinationals, the cloud is shaking up the business world. “The cloud is both a catalyst and a connector,” says Mr Lowe. “It allows organisations to source, scale and deliver on demand better than ever before. This agility means they are better equipped to respond to market pressures, to out-innovate the competition and to keep ahead of the pack.”

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