Cloud computing has been a hot topic at big enterprises for several years. Now small and medium-sized businesses are following suit. It's not hard to see why: cloud computing is an undeniable money-saving opportunity. Instead of making upfront investments in a lot of software, you can have these same capabilities delivered as a subscription-based service. This saves on both the up-front investment and ongoing administration. It makes someone else responsible for making sure the applications run smoothly. And when the time comes to upgrade your platforms, there's far less hassle.
There are plenty of cloud-based services available today for basic office applications (accounting to word processing), file backup services, sales support, customer relationship management and more. Major brand names in software such as Google, Microsoft, Intuit, Salesforce.com and others offer cloud-based options priced for the small business market. It's no surprise that the research firm IDC estimates that companies with 100 or fewer employees spent £1.49 billion on cloud computing services in 2010, up from £1.06 billion in 2009.
But if you are looking at cloud computing simply as a way to save money, you may be selling yourself and your business short. Here's why: the biggest impact of cloud-based services is not necessarily on what you spend, but on the way you work. Here's why:
Instead of having applications and data on your office PC, your laptop, or on USB drives that you carry around, with a cloud-based services the data and programs that are important to you can be available anywhere. In today's highly mobile world, this kind of anytime, anywhere access is not just a convenience-it's a necessity for doing business. A cloud-based approach gives you a scalable, manageable way of providing this kind of access to your business
Easy access to applications makes collaboration easier. If your business has more than one location or regularly works directly with partners and/or customers you will need to support the easy, seamless sharing and interaction that makes for productive collaboration. A cloud-based solution gives you these capabilities.
When you look at cloud computing in this way-as a new way to work, not just a new way to save money-you realise that it's not simply an either/or decision. It's the rare company that will have everything in the cloud. Or nothing. Most will take a hybrid approach, migrating to the cloud for things that are simply done better by others while retaining control over critical, core applications.
At Excell we see a hybrid approach emerging in communications/collaboration, with small businesses depending on the reliability and performance of their office communications system while also taking advantage of seamless integration with complementary, cloud-based services for conferencing, collaboration, customer relationship management and more.