‘Cloud computing’ can seem like a nebulous all-encompassing term, but with the rise of the digital age it has never been more important to get your head in the cloud. Letitia Booty explores what the concept means for SMEs
Cloud computing is internet-based computing whereby a network of remote servers, hosted on the internet, are used to store and process data. This is as opposed to traditional local servers or personal computers. Analysts at information technology research company Gartner have predicted that the cloud services market will grow to $244 billion (around £161 billion) by 2017.
According to a report from computer consultancy BCSG, around 64 per cent of small businesses have an average of three cloud solutions in place, providing specific functions such as email and websites. However, 78 per cent of businesses surveyed said they are considering purchasing new solutions in the next two to three years, thereby increasing the potential for the average number of applications used to seven, with 88 per cent of small businesses using at least one service.
A report from billing and order management system provider Amdocs that looks at the uptake of cloud services among SMEs found that 75 per cent of small businesses would like cloud services as part of a package with their communications services, with 70 per cent saying they would like a single provider for all of these services. In the UK, SMEs have as many as seven providers for communications services, including mobile phones, internet, landlines and cloud services.
However, the same research also found that 30 per cent of SMEs need educating about the benefits the cloud could bring to their customers – for example, how they can improve their sales, customer service and retention. In addition there is some confusion over which cloud approach to take, which is preventing around one in three SMEs from adopting cloud services. This shows that, despite huge overall awareness and adoption of cloud services, there is still some work to be done on the part of suppliers when it comes to spreading the word.