By Ash Patel, Director of Business Transformation at Cobweb Solutions

When running a company, one of your biggest competitors is time. In the fast-paced world of business, where the stakes and pressures are high, working efficiently can be challenging. When it feels like there are simply not enough hours in the day, using technology can help to alleviate this burden.

The cloud is redefining the way people do business, delivering small and medium sized firms a competitive edge. Cloud and mobile technologies enable small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to boost productivity. By delivering an agile, flexible and smart means of handling business, it can eliminate inefficiencies, simplify time heavy processes, and strengthen business relationships.

To help SMEs make the most of this new way of working, I will share my top tips for businesses to maximise productivity using the cloud.

  1. Wherever, whenever
Recent IDC research found that 37 per cent of the total workplace is made up of mobile workers. The surge of cloud services, mobile technologies, and unified communication tools has helped to facilitate this shift to remote working.

Now, as long as employees have internet access, they can work off shared files at any time - regardless of location. Mobile data enables team members to manage work processes wherever they are working from. Not only does this improve the productivity of the business, increased mobile working also means employers can recruit desirable candidates who are based outside the local area. The cloud enables the top candidates to work from anywhere, so physical location is no longer a barrier to employing the best staff for your business.

Another advantage for businesses using the cloud is the flexibility it delivers: no longer are employees limited to the traditional 9-5 office hours. Telecommuting helps to reduce the stress of a long daily commute, and by facilitating flexible working initiatives, it plays a vital part in creating a more motivated, happier and engaged workforce.

  1. Use online communication tools
Collaborative technologies mean that days spent sending files back and forth in endless email chains are a thing of the past. Cloud systems create a more streamlined process. Sharing information in real-time means business decisions can be made faster through improved and more collaborative streams of communication. Cloud-based tools, such as Office 365, Google Docs and Dropbox, allow group projects to be shared and edited from multiple locations, hassle free!

SMEs should use instant messaging, audio and video-conferencing tools to enhance communication across the business. Technologies such as Microsoft Lync, which facilitate instant communication, help to foster a more communal environment where activity happens faster, leading to a happier team and increased productivity as a result.

  1. Concentrate on your business
The burden of having to organise an entire IT infrastructure whilst also managing and trying to grow your business can be time-consuming, stressful, and inefficient. Using cloud services eradicates this problem, freeing up precious time to invest in your business.

Cloud services have the added benefit of reducing capital expenditure – a key advantage for SMEs with limited IT budgets. Cutting unnecessary costs means funds can be redirected to the areas your business most needs, such as hiring additional staff. What’s more, with no need for in-house physical infrastructure, businesses should not incur any unexpected maintenance costs, so there won’t be any nasty surprises further down the road!

  1. Secure your data
For businesses running off paper documents or files stored on hard-drives, unforeseen and often unavoidable circumstances, such as accidents or viruses, can pose huge risks to your business’s reputation. By using a certified and secure cloud provider, your data is under expert control. For instance, automatic back up for your files, 24/7 security, and generators to ensure business continuity are just some of the advantages cloud services provide; enabling you to sleep soundly in the knowledge that your company’s data lies in safe hands.

For many SMEs, productivity is a major factor holding the business back. Harnessing the value of cloud computing can be liberating on many different levels, from streamlining communication to improving data security. For a low monthly cost, using the cloud will boost your business’s bottom line, enabling you to run a more efficient and ultimately, more successful business.