Should your business be moving to the cloud?
A 2017 survey of 50,000 European businesses revealed that Irish business owners and their office managers, have a slightly different set of priorities to their European neighbours, based on a different set of challenges.
43% of Irish businesses identified labour costs as their biggest difficulty. With the rise in reliability and availability of cloud-based business solutions, it’s no surprise that mid-sized Irish companies are choosing to move some or all of their activities to the cloud to combat these costs.
Leveraging Cloud Services For HR
One of the great benefits of cloud computing is that it allows employees to be more mobile and gives employers greater scope to deploy their staff (and labour costs) to maximum benefit.
Dublin-based businesses in particular have spent decades trying to manage a highly mobile local workforce, who are more likely to move company in response to economic downturns or if working elsewhere in Europe is seen to be more advantageous.
By using cloud services such as project management applications, a company can enable teams to work on projects without being limited by geographic location, or failures in software compatibility.
One of the biggest drains on HR resources, and budgets, is the need to find, train and manage new employees as well as contract and temporary staff. Forward-thinking office managers are gaining from cloud services by means of using online resources to train and induct new employees rapidly and effectively. Tools such as:
- Virtual interviewing,
- Online applicant tracking management,
- Virtual inductions and online training programmes with high interactivity.
People work better when they know, and can have confidence in, their coworkers. Moving to the cloud can offer businesses a more connected and in-sync workforce, and the higher the connectivity of your team, the more productive they can be.
With the cloud, internal and external communication and planning can become highly productive. Forget the endless iterations of spreadsheets that often require employees simply to service their constant updating. Forget the constant emailing around to find out how a project is going. Collaborative cloud-based tools make teamwork easy and give instant feedback on project deadlines and task statuses.
Most businesses gather far more information than they can possibly use without the cloud, and in today’s business environment, personalisation of is becoming the most important factor in success. But for companies moving to the cloud, big data becomes usable data.
Gaining access to cloud computing means even small companies have the capacity to crunch their numbers and interrogate their metrics so that they can tailor everything they do – internally and externally – to obtain a competitive edge.
The Cloud As Cost Saver
Moving to the cloud affects businesses’ bottom line. It can reduce capital costs as well as maintenance overheads and we’ll go into greater detail on this below.
However, one area in which mid-sized Irish businesses are benefiting, more than almost any other, is in the reliability that the cloud offers to business. It’s not a word that appears on many balance sheets and you won’t see it on annual reports but reliability saves a lot more on costs than the term suggests. Those countless labor-hours spent waiting for things to load, reboot and update and the idle time wasted while problems are fixed, all adds up to significant costs every year for businesses.
No More Wasted Costs
Cloud-based systems have massive over-compensations to combat failures, called multi-redundancy, at both the software and the hardware level. Simply put, unlike traditional computer software packages, cloud systems have so many fall-backs and contingencies in place that they don’t fail.
Cloud providers also invest in what are called ‘self-healing’ systems, computer programmes that recognise the potential for weakness or failure and immediately build bypass systems to keep data flowing while they track down and deal with the problem.
Most businesses couldn’t begin to afford such technology with traditional setups but with the cloud it comes as standard. No more time wasting, no more unnecessary costs.
Not Sure? Test Drive It
In addition, many cloud services offer a ‘test drive’ of their system before they migrate your data and move your systems, so you’ve had a good opportunity to look at how your organisation will handle the new systems and to plan for a migration that works for you.
As any Office Manager can tell you, the alternative, with a horde of buzzing techs taking over the office, can bring productivity to a standstill and when delays or conflicts occur, as they inevitably do, business somehow still needs to be done, while the computer people sort out their difficulties.
Real Cost Savings
The cloud also helps businesses save on the high capital cost expenditure that normally comes with business IT hardware and software packages. High one-off capital expenditure on enterprise-grade hardware can be done away with almost entirely when your data and on solutions are moved to cloud providers’ infrastructure.
What’s more is that most cloud solutions offer easy-to-understand monthly costs per user so you are only spending what you need to and can easily scale whenever you need to. The price for solutions is also generally lower than what is attainable with traditional solutions thanks to providers’ ability to scale as well.
Cloud Security Benefits
Interestingly, what was once seen as one of the major pitfalls of moving to the cloud is actually one of its biggest strengths.
in 2016 when businesses were surveyed about their attitudes to cloud computing, companies not using the cloud cited concerns about the security of data held in the cloud as a drawback. By 2018 the reverse has become true, but smaller organisations may not be fully aware of the gains in cybersecurity that would now give their business greater safety.
This analogy should help make it clear why this is the case – most businesses keep a certain amount of cash on hand, but they wouldn’t hold their operating capital in the office safe, they’d want it to be safely stored in the vault of a major banking institution.
Similarly, data held in the cloud now is considerably safer than the same data held in company hard drives, for three reasons:
- Data encryption is updated in line with the latest global threats, unlike local security which is only updated when the IT person gets around to it.
- Local hacks and attacks (disgruntled former employees or rivals, for example) are easily frustrated and prevented by cloud-based security systems.
- Disaster recovery (eg fire or flood) is almost instantaneous – company data is never at risk because it is never held in the disaster zone.
Cloud Services As Innovation Drivers
There are five major ways in which cloud for business enables companies to develop and innovate towards success. The specific features of cloud that benefit business innovation and growth are:
- Expanding the range of products and services that a business can offer whilst improving ease of use for those who need to demonstrate and explain those products or services.
- Customer experience can be tailored to the individual customer or client, based on their preferences as stated by them, or as gathered through use of business website or apps.
- Businesses can swiftly design, develop and deliver new products to market. It can also adjust rapidly to changing markets – a useful tool, in particular for Irish businesses who have seen incredible turbulence in their economic landscape in the last decade.
- A business can easily reach new customers using the cloud. Before cloud services, businesses had to define research, formulate a strategy, test. and then implement it when seeking new customer bases.
Today, cloud access allows a company to, for example, create an online forum or community targeted at a potential customer group and then manage that community with offers, ideas, polls and surveys, linking to social media, to do most of the work of customer identification without taking months about it, or paying a fortune to consultants.
- Cloud access = global access. For many Irish businesses, already well committed to their European neighbours and looking outward further to ever more geographically distant customer bases, supplier networks and partnerships, the cloud is a real advantage. Not only does it facilitate speedy transfer of information, cloud enterprise conducted through intuitive online tools, allows for better communication, so relationships are established more quickly and commerce is made easier.
Cloud Statistics: The trend is in the numbers
In a survey of 1400 IT security professionals, 93% claimed to be using some kind of cloud service to help their organisations.
Pretty well as soon as a company is big enough to employ an IT professional, that organisation will move into cloud computing in certain areas – not because the IT pro is trying to ‘increase their empire’ but because as soon as a professional is employed, they see benefits of cutting costs using cloud capacity alongside the benefit in security that top quality cloud systems offer.
Not all cloud facilities have the same level of uptake. For example, a recent survey shows that 47% of companies have already moved their messaging systems into the cloud. This is of particular interest to Irish companies who benefit from a reasonably modern wireless infrastructure that allows them to engage cost effectively with cloud messaging.
29% of companies are currently using some form of cloud storage. And their stated reasons, in order of priority are:
- Reducing infrastructure costs.
It’s not just the cost of buying servers, cloud computing also does away with the installation costs and ongoing maintenance charges that in-house servers bring with them.
- Disaster protection.
As we’ve already said, local disaster planning is vital, but one element you can relax about with cloud storage is data. With your data held in the cloud, there’s no need to worry about what happens locally. Given that only 6% of organisations survive after significant data loss, this is a big consideration for mid-sized businesses.
- Savings on IT.
Again, while there’s the obvious saving on infrastructure, there are several other cost benefits such as having a smaller IT department which is able to focus on in-house issues because cloud facilities such as data encryption and top-flight cybersecurity are handled by the cloud provider, leaving your team free to respond immediately to any local problems.
- Boost innovation.
The ability to access data and documents 24/7 allows organisations to become more flexible and agile. This can allow them to make better use of their top talent, which is freed from humdrum administration and also allows for greater employment innovation so there’s a bigger and more diverse employee pool to call on. This is a big win for the Irish firms for whom labour costs and skills shortages came top of their challenge list.
What is the difference between cloud computing and Software as a Service?
SaaS is a term coined by vendors who didn’t want to frighten away potential clients by suggesting that they were buying something ‘virtual’ rather than an actual, tangible product. Today we see SaaS as a subset of the general cloud market – such applications as ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and CRM (Customer Relationship Management), when hosted remotely, are a hybrid of software service provision and true cloud technology.
Does cloud computing really help me save money?
Absolutely yes, and not only in the obvious ways that we’ve already discussed such as reduced infrastructure costs and lower maintenance charges. One major way that cloud computing helps business save money is in the way that it handles business growth.
Take, for example, the average customer service team, trying to handle client queries. As well all know, with major utilities you can sit on the phone, literally for hours, waiting to resolve your problem.
Bottlenecks in data handling are a major cause of dissatisfaction with a business and cloud-based data gives an entire organisation instant access to the information they require and the ability to update information instantaneously. IT should never be a limiter on business capacity, but all too often it is because businesses often find they have data demand surges when everybody is trying to access and update the information at the same time. Few in-house servers can handle this kind of behaviour, but cloud systems simply adjust, instantly, seamlessly and efficiently.
Should I be looking for cloud computing or cloud services?
Well, this is entirely a matter of language – cloud computing is actually the technical terminology that applies to Information Technology, while cloud services, strictly speaking, is the language of business technology – in other words, people utilise cloud services provided by cloud computing technologists.
All that really means is that business people are likely to be talking about the cloud services they use to help run their business better while their IT personnel are likely to be talking about the cloud computing architecture that underpins the services.
Moving to the cloud – in a nutshell
So cloud services help businesses grow, keep them safe, save money, discover new markets and improve team performance. They can be as large or small, as obvious or as insignificant as the company requires and one thing is always true – the move to the cloud is a step towards the future of business.