The emergence of cloud computing in the workplace has truly been a game-changer. The disruptive, transformative effect on enterprise has been huge. Cloud removes the need for major investment in cumbersome IT systems, and facilitates flexible IT that grows with the business. Great for large businesses, but even better for SMEs, no longer restricted by legacy IT systems or small IT budgets.
Cloud has enabled SMEs to compete with larger businesses, and figures for its take-up reflect this. In the US alone, the percentage of small businesses using cloud computing is predicted to more than double in the next six years, from 37% to 80%1. The story is similar across Europe, with 65% of SME respondents to a survey2 saying they use cloud services for file sharing and synchronisation and/or back up. Its popularity looks likely to receive a further boost since Microsoft switched off its Windows 2003 platform in July, leaving servers unsupported and open to security risks.
For those SMEs already experiencing the benefits of the cloud, there is one question they are beginning to ask themselves: “Now what?” Can they forget about their IT, and focus on business growth? Should they be using the opportunity to drive innovation, as analysts Gartner recommends? Gartner, Inc VP and distinguished analyst Betsy Burton says, “This year, we encourage CIOs and other IT leaders to dedicate time and energy focused on innovation, rather than just incremental business advancement, whilst also gaining inspiration by scanning beyond the bounds of their industry”3. Businesses can certainly focus on growth and innovation, knowing they have a reliable technology platform in place– that is, after all, the beauty of cloud for many organisations. But a little continued cloud TLC will do wonders.
Here are our top five points to form the basis of your post-cloud migration strategy, which might just accelerate your ROI and boost your business even further.
1/ Get to know your network
Businesses which have migrated a few specific applications to the cloud must keep a close eye on their networks. Although they may have migrated ERP, HR applications and perhaps email, in reality there are hundreds of applications being accessed in the cloud by employees, placing a strain on the network and putting the business at risk with these unsecured business applications. These may vary from employees’ personal cloud storage and social media accounts to specialist functional applications purchased by individual departments – but not endorsed by IT. Some experts suggest as many as 90% of applications are not brought in by IT4. Application performance management tools can help here - as well as a robust security policy shared across the business.
2/ Educate staff
There is little point migrating tools and applications to a cloud environment unless the migration has a positive impact on your employees. Whether it gives them faster access to tools, enhanced security, or the ability to embrace a new collaborative way of working, make sure there are training programmes in place to educate, inform and encourage staff.
3/ Mix and match cloud
As your business and its cloud usage evolves, it’s worth keeping an open mind on the kind of cloud services you need. Businesses are currently still shying away from hybrid cloud, generally choosing either public or private cloud platforms, but hybrid can offer the best of both worlds. It enables a business to store highly sensitive data in a bespoke private cloud environment, whilst using a public cloud service provider (Amazon Web Services for example) to keep the costs down.
4/ Everything ‘as a service’
More and more IT can now be bought in ‘as a service’, leaving organisations free to focus on the core business and leave much of its IT management to specialist vendors. As well as Software as a Service, Platform as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service, there is Mobile Backend as a Service, Storage as a Service, Communications as a Service, Network as a Service and Monitoring as a Service. Selecting ‘as a service’ gives your business flexibility and improved cost control with its ‘pay as you go’ nature.
5/ Consider the diversity of Enterprise-grade tools available in the cloud
More and more Enterprise-grade tools and applications are accessible in the cloud, enhancing a diversity of business processes and operations. Although the most popular use of cloud in the enterprise is for email, with 66% relying on a cloud platform for this application5, the management of operations such as physical post, too, can be maintained in the cloud. Transactional mail in physical format – invoices, statements, renewal notices, quotes and policy documents - remains popular. 61%6 of us prefer to receive bills and invoices by physical mail, so the pressure is on for those businesses generating high volumes of physical and digital mail. Cloud-based platforms for physical mail can enhance content, channel and production processes, and provide controls for the protection of data with built-in document integrity. Other cloud-based tools businesses are using to transform their operations include location-based services, Ecomerce fulfilment, Internet postage and parcel management. All converge physical operations with digital technology.
It’s also worth considering that many tools and applications now are specifically designed to work at their optimum levels in the cloud. Give these due consideration, as some legacy applications you may have migrated might not operate as effectively in a cloud-based environment: those which have been developed for high bandwidth, low latency LAN environments for example.
Cloud is a transformative force in the SME market. Its ability to improve the management and delivery of digital tools and applications is unquestionable. Nurture it, and your business will experience cloud at its very best.
About the author
Andrew Ford is Pitney Bowes’ Marketing and Communications Vice President for Europe and has over 20 years’ experience in the technology business. Andrew previously ran the Norton mobile, SaaS and cloud marketing at Symantec, enterprise solutions marketing for Dell, ecommerce leadership for BT and channel and consumer marketing at Hewlett Packard.
1 Research from consulting firm Emergent Research and financial software company Intuit
2 Survey byNetPilot Internet Security
3 Quote from Gartner, Inc in Cloud Computing Intelligence
4 Quote from Netskope
5 Research featured on ec.europa.eu
6 Pitney Bowes Leflein Associates research