29/02/2012

By Paul Harris, Marketing Director at UKFast

There’s a mobile revolution taking place and SMEs are caught right in the middle of it. Hosting in the cloud is responsible for driving this trend where we can work from anywhere, at any time and on a multitude of devices. Whether it’s the smartphone, working from home or the tablet, productivity has shot through the roof for the savvy businesses that are drawing their applications down from the cloud.

At a recent round table on the Mobile Web, Ronnie Brown, managing partner at marketing agency Quirk London pointed out that it’s a misnomer to call your mobile a ‘phone’ these days as 23% of global web traffic came from mobiles in 2011. We’re all carrying a mini-computer in our pockets and how effective that is for your business very much depends on whether you are ‘in the cloud’.

As the workforce becomes more mobile and more global, executives must find ways to adapt their systems and processes to evolve with the changing realities of the workplace. It’s no longer required to be a fixed location; teams are working seamlessly, whether they are in Starbucks or the boardroom.

When cloud first cut through the hype and became a viable business option, IT managers raved about flexibility as its unique selling point. Today, 50% of SMEs choose the cloud for its flexibility. But, where the IT manager sees the flexibility in the mechanics of the infrastructure, the MD is reaping the rewards in the mobility and accessibility of their information and systems.

This flexibility of delivery is a key contributor to 58% of cloud users claiming that the control they now have over their data has never been better. It’s also a big reason why 72% of cloud users are looking to move more applications to the cloud within the next 12 months.

In light of this rapid development, businesses using smartphones for their workforce are also to benefit from tax exemptions they previously couldn’t get. Recognising the crucial role that mobile devices now play in productivity, HMRC has revised its guidance on smartphones. Devices can now be provided to any number of employees without any tax or National Insurance Contributions (NIC) being payable.

Home working is another huge area that has been transformed by the availability of applications within the cloud. More and more businesses are attracted by a dispersed workforce that can log into a shared system every day from the convenience of their own homes.

With the variety of tools available through the cloud, experts argue that the downsides of isolated working are vastly outweighed by the ability to collaborate as if your colleague was still sat on the other side of the office.

And this sharing of material becomes especially powerful as mobile sales people are able to visit customers with an iPad and talk them through online presentations. Through the tablet they are have access to internal systems as efficiently as if they were in their own office but with the benefit of playing to the customers’ convenience.

If there’s one area where MDs have been able to evangelise about the cloud over and above its money saving potential, it’s in the way it enhances mobile working. The ‘always on’ working environment is an excellent thing for business owners and senior managers. They just need to work out how they ‘sell’ this to their teams now!