Clouds (3)

Cloud technology can be the key to sustainable competitive advantage. UK businesses have been waking up to this fact and migrating to the cloud to harness the benefits it delivers for some time.

Data protection and security – fundamental elements of any business model – are among the reasons small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are turning to the cloud. Cost considerations are also part of the mix. Cloud-based tools grant smaller businesses access to enterprise-level technology that would be otherwise inaccessible without substantial investment. Using a cloud solutions provider eliminates maintenance costs and the need for in-house expertise.

Business agility and flexibility are enhanced thanks to the rise of mobile and cloud technologies. Solutions can be scaled up or down as business needs dictate. What’s more, with cloud-based collaboration tools such as Microsoft Office 365, employees can communicate with colleagues and access documents from wherever they are based.

Despite these benefits, some companies are still hesitant on integrating cloud technology into their organisation. So what is holding them back? In this article, I will dispel the three most common misconceptions deterring UK businesses from the cloud:

  1. The cloud is not secure (false!)
The latest survey from the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) revealed security concerns are the primary inhibitor to cloud adoption among small and medium sized businesses in the UK, with 70 per cent citing security as their main concern. However, over 99 per cent of those using cloud services have never experienced a security breach.

To cyber criminals, any company holding confidential information is an attractive target. The most common causes of a cyber-attack are unsecured Wi-Fi connections, inadequate firewalls and data leakage; interestingly these are all problems that are more prevalent amongst businesses that have not moved over to the cloud.

As the onus for ensuring sensitive data is protected lies with the business, cloud technology should be embraced to help build a defence against security risks. To safeguard their data, SMEs should consider using a cloud solutions provider. With state-of-the-art, dedicated facilities, cloud providers offer security levels which far surpass those that could ever be achieved by many small businesses within their existing IT budgets.

As a result of the cloud, business data is now securely accessible from anywhere with an internet or Wi-Fi connection. Registering these devices to the cloud extends security. If they get lost or stolen, access to the server can be removed and passwords changed so business data does not fall into the wrong hands.

The final point on cloud security relates to business continuity. For SMEs the ability to recover key systems and data within predefined recovery times is vital. If a firm was to lose valuable client data, perhaps due to a fire or flooding incident, it could mean irreparable damage to the company’s reputation. With instantaneous data backup, even if a catastrophic event does occur, hosting business software in the cloud can ensure the impact of any outage is minimal.

  1. Migrating to the cloud is complex (false!)
Many small businesses refrain from migrating their IT infrastructure to the cloud due to the misconception that it will be time-consuming or lead to downtime and data loss. However, CIF’s research revealed that cloud migration is not as complex as businesses anticipate. Less than 40 per cent of SMEs using cloud solutions found the process difficult and the vast majority (99%) were satisfied with their chosen method of migration.

Nevertheless, if concerns over complexity are hindering cloud adoption, a managed IT services provider can help small and medium sized firms with cloud implementation to ease the migration process.

  1. The cloud is expensive (false!)
Often small and medium sized firms see the up-front costs of migrating to the cloud as prohibitive. However, many businesses overestimate the true costs incurred by a migration, which will vary according to the needs of each business.

It’s key for small and medium sized businesses to adopt a long term view. By looking to the future, business owners will see the operational savings that will emerge once the migration is complete - savings which will ultimately offset the initial investment and boost the business’s bottom line.

With a better understanding of the misconceptions surrounding the cloud, SMEs can challenge what they think they know about cloud technology and allow this invaluable resource to become an integral part of the business strategy.

By Ash Patel, Director of Business Transformation at Cobweb Solutions