Cloud opens new growth opportunities for SMEs


First submitted by Lars Jeppesen on Sun, 04/06/2014 – 19:44

Businesses worldwide are still in the early stage of cloud adoption. Gartner, an American information technology (IT) research and advisory firm, predicts that only by the end of 2017, almost half of enterprises will deploy cloud computing in their organizations. However, cloud computing was already an idea as early as 1961, where American scientist John McCarthy suggested that computing can be sold like a utility such as electricity or water. So what happened in between 1961 and 2014?

No doubt, major IT players have been helping increase adoption by offering cloud services that would benefit businesses worldwide. Still, negative perception among businesses obscure the real benefits of cloud computing. This is a bit strange to think that the world’s 1.3 billion users don’t even think twice or not even dwell of the disadvantages of using the most popular social networking site, Facebook, which is technically is a cloud-based service.

What businesses, especially the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have to realize is the opportunity for growth that it offers. As a backgrounder, cloud computing is computing that involves a number of servers virtualized that can be accessed via Internet Protocol (IP). Usage can be compared to electricity, where you only pay what you consume.

There are three cloud types – public, private, and hybrid clouds. Public cloud is based on the standard cloud computing model, wherein a service provider rents out computing power in the form of applications or storage from its servers for its clients to access via the Internet. Meanwhile, a private cloud has the same concept as public data but is implemented within a private environment. This means that organizations need to have their own hardware to provide cloud service that is built on the peak performance that an organization requires. Lastly, hybrid cloud can allow organizations to put some of the technical functions of the cloud on your own premise. An example is an organization managing their own storage within the office premises but all the software will be accessed from the cloud.

But what’s the best type of cloud? Each company may cite certain benefits based from its requirements but from a cost perspective, public cloud may be the best. Based from the 2013 Cloud Pulse survey conducted by TechTarget, an online IT media related firm, 73% of respondents indicate cost savings as the top driver for their use of public cloud services.

In an SME with modest IT in-house resources, going for the cloud may be an opportunity for further growth. This may be the solution for SMEs around the globe, which roughly constitute of 90% of businesses and employ 50% of individuals worldwide. Cost savings may be fully realized especially with the steady decrease of Internet subscription rates.

The term ‘public’ in public data may ignite thoughts of security risks but all the data in the cloud are encrypted, which means that no one can have access to your data but you. In fact, most of the security breaches happen internally, as according to the 2013 Information Security Breaches Survey, 57% of small businesses suffered staff-related security breaches.

Ensuring that your data won’t be lost is guaranteed in the public cloud, where your data is replicated on different servers worldwide. Physical servers, meanwhile, will likely incur an organization additional costs for sever rooms, server backup, maintenance and staff to manage it.

Storing physical documents is another issue, which pose more risks aside from security. What would happen when a tropical cyclone hits the country and wipes away your document storage? Backup is key and cloud is the answer to this solution. We have seen this solution work for organizations with our document imaging system, Enadoc. With the system connected to a public cloud such as Amazon Cloud or Windows Azure to store data, we have provided a disaster and risk-proof environment for organizations and their documents.

As someone who manages a medium-sized company, I can testify on how the cloud has helped our company experience steady growth. For years, we have been using Microsoft Office 365, a solution that lets us access Microsoft Office applications using desktop and other smart devices.

Instead of incurring costs on server, server upgrades, and server storage, we just focus our budget on expansion, particularly in hiring talent and expanding to other countries. When we have a new office, we rent out a business center where the office infrastructure is provided. The only thing we have to do is plug the computer and start to work. Not only can we save cost on having physical servers, maintenance, and software, we can also save on software updates, as Office 365 automatically updates the software.

Going back to the similarity of the cloud to electricity – it’s a lot like buying a new light bulb, installing it, and letting the electricity flow for it to work. In our company, we can install a thousand light bulbs and only pay for the electricity that we consume. Like electricity, there’s no capacity limit in the cloud, allowing businesses like us to expand as much as we want. This is one of the best benefits of the cloud.

Investing on the cloud is perhaps the most sensible decision for SMEs today. Maybe for businesses, it’s just a matter of shifting perspective to seeing the benefits and demystifying the potential security risks through intensive research.