Cloud migration is a must for every business looking to optimise costs, streamline efficiencies and ensure systems and data are available to employees anywhere. So why isn’t everyone doing it? Here, Chris Pottrell, above, founder and MD of Nebula, looks at some of the reasons why SMEs are reluctant to embrace the cloud and puts the record straight about some of the most common myths and barriers to implementation
The many benefits of switching to cloud computing – essentially, the act of storing and accessing all your data and applications over the internet instead of your computer’s hard drive – are well documented.
Fundamentally, the cloud model, because it is virtually based, drastically reduces the number and type of expensive hardware devices you need, meaning less to update and maintain, along with significantly lower electricity bills. Also, having workloads in the cloud means you can more easily scale up and down based on your evolving IT requirements and business plan. As it can be available on a pay-as-you-go basis, it can also mean you only pay for the exact computing power you use.
But the benefits do not end there. Conducive to the evolving working environment it also enables most key activities to be performed remotely, in real-time, anywhere in the world, negating the need for a physical presence. In this way it supports increased collaboration and efficiencies as employees in various locations are able to work together more easily facilitated by simultaneous syncing, working and document sharing in real-time.
The result is faster, less expensive operations – an attractive proposition for the SME sector where cost, as we all know, matters more than ever. A recent study found, in fact, that SMEs using the cloud grow 26% faster and are 21% more profitable than their peers. It also found using cloud services saves money, with most lowering costs between 10% and 20%.
Yet the pace and scale of cloud adoption within the sector remains limited. The fact is over half of UK SMEs still haven’t joined the cloud, and only a fraction of the vast software, storage and other remote services SMEs use every day are stored online– but why?
Making the business case for the cloud
The first challenge we tend to find when working with SMEs is ascertaining the business case for the cloud. More than ever business leaders want to see a clear return on investment, and there seems to be a misconception that migrating to the cloud can be hugely expensive. In some cases, people can assume it will get more expensive over time too.
That is not our experience; while the initial investment may seem significant it will pay for itself virtually overnight by making operations much more efficient, reducing downtime and enabling the same equipment to give more output using the same – or less – energy. It’s an incremental effort too – the more things you add to the cloud, the more you see the value of it.
Maintaining business as usual
Another common perception is that cloud migration is long and overly complex, resulting in costly disruption and downtime. The reality, however, is that the longest part of any migration is usually the initial planning stages – reviewing existing assets, choosing the most suitable provider, preparing your employees and end-users. So long as it is well planned, it’s possible to conduct a ‘life and shift’ model where the migration takes place behind the scenes over just a few weeks while maintaining business as usual. Also, it means you’ll no longer have to maintain hardware and upgrade software all the time, decreasing the inconveniences and increasing your time spent on improving your business operations.
Creating trust in the cloud
Cybersecurity is another major barrier to taking cloud into the mainstream. As we all know, the cybersecurity threat landscape is constantly evolving as newer threat variants emerge, and hackers and the technologies they use become more sophisticated and targeted. We also tend to find that people may have more trust issues with the cloud as its ‘not in the same room.’
The reality is, however, that both on-premise and cloud based solution have vulnerabilities. However, the difference with cloud providers is that will have already invested heavily in taking care of tougher security issues such as protecting the infrastructure and assets for you in line. It is also important to note that the cloud can be audited, updated, and secured much easier and quicker than physical infrastructure.
That said though, it is imperative that SMES also consider some fundamental security steps to help better protect themselves as part of the process. This should include applying network perimeter defences, along with malware protection and enforcing a strong password policy and ongoing patch testing. Most data breaches are caused by human errors, so remember, the security of your cloud can only be guaranteed if you follow best practices and if it’s regularly maintained.
Investing in infrastructure in a downturn
As the economy braces itself for the looming recession, it may be all too tempting for businesses to forgo plans to migrate to the cloud and try to eek out existing assets for as long as possible. However, continuing to operate cumbersome legacy architecture can prove a false economy in terms of business limitations and operational inefficiencies when it has, perhaps, never been more important to perform at peak. All this, while the cost of maintaining legacy infrastructure can also be significant.
At a time of keen competition too, failing to keep up with competitors that are already operating in the cloud could put you on a back foot.
As we look to the future of IT infrastructure, there is no disputing the critical role of the cloud. From helping businesses scale at pace, speed up deployments and manage the evolving workforce with ease through to reducing operational costs, the sky really is the limit when it comes to the cloud.