It seems that everyone is moving to the cloud. Cloud computing has not just changed how we access films (e.g. Netflix ) and listen to music (e.g. Spotify ) or share photographs but it is being adopted by businesses large and small. In fact it’s part of what is being called the ‘fourth industrial revolution’.
What is Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing in simple terms is the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer. Although this may seem a complex concept, chances are you’ve already been using the cloud. Every time you use Google Drive, or Dropbox for example, you’ve been using cloud technology.
For a business it means that, instead of buying lots of varied software and holding all your data files on your locally-based PCs, you access another firm’s software and storage space – and they manage and update it all for you. You can do this by renting – typically a monthly or annual subscription – this software and storage space from a cloud provider.
Businesses may choose to buy ‘off-the-shelf’ cloud applications available from an ever-growing number of providers to service ‘back-office’ needs such as payroll, accounts and sales automation – these might be ‘service-as-a-software’ (SaaS) applications. Otherwise, larger firms may wish to tailor ‘public cloud’ options (e.g. Google and Microsoft) to their needs.
Businesses take to the cloud
From national government to the smallest firm, cloud adoption is the latest ‘big thing’. The UK Government has made major investments in UK cloud data centres with the aim to “help UK firms to work smarter and faster”. Its 2017 report outlined how one of the core activities for firms to remain competitive was to ‘use the cloud’. Superfast broadband is being rolled out and some firms are planning to connect directly to the internet using fibre ethernet leased lines.
Government departments are increasingly using the cloud for infrastructure and platform as a service (IaaS and PaaS) foundations – for example, HMRC’s new digital approach to the tax system reflects the government’s current ‘cloud-first’ approach. However, smaller businesses too are taking the leap. A survey of 120 UK IT decision-makers has revealed that their firm plans to move on average nearly half (46%) of their infrastructure to the cloud over the next six months.
Apart from established businesses, cloud technology is perfect for enabling start-ups to get off the ground when investment funds may be low or have other priorities. In fact, many see cloud computing as a way of remaining competitive because it manages costs and ensures digital stability.
Striking a note of caution, however, research has shown that the UK continues to lag behind both North America and the rest of Europe when it comes to cloud adoption. Over 900 CIOs revealed in a survey that while only 10% of UK businesses have moved their entire organisation to the cloud, 45% of American firms have already completed the move.
Yet while few UK firms have switched, almost half (49%) intend to migrate at least part of their organisation and a further 28% of UK CIOs said their firm was in the process of implementing a cloud roll-out.
The pros and cons of moving to the cloud
There are a number of things to consider and questions to ask before moving to the cloud and away from more traditional IT methods.
Top 5 benefits:
So what can your business expect to gain?
● Greater connectivity – the potential 24/7 availability and ‘anytime, anywhere’ access of cloud computing empowers managers and staff to make better informed decisions. Staff are not tied to one location to access documents but can do so from any location, if appropriately authorised by the firm. It’s especially good for firms with scattered and/or team members.
● Increased flexibility – monthly or annual subscriptions to a cloud provider mean that start-ups or hard-pressed SMEs can scale up, or down, as necessary in line with what they can afford.
● Improved security – having one source for files storage and transfer or customer/staff interfacing via a SAAS or PAAS means that you can concentrate on making that source secure.
● Saves time and money – firms can reduce their capital expenditure and don’t have to spend time setting up and updating their own IT systems, they can save precious time and money leaving them freer to concentrate on businesses.
Top 5 risks and pitfalls:
The barriers and risks of moving to the cloud can understandably make some businesses hesitant about the move. Some of the risks include:
● Reliable cloud provider – you’ll need to source and sign up a reliable cloud-provider. Even large concerns can fall foul of this issue. For example the controversy over HMRC recently having to switch providers from a small struggling SME to the online giant Amazon due to “basic risk management.” ( Computer Weekly )
● Security – conversely this issue is both an advantage and pitfall. While there can potentially be some security risks for sending sensitive data ‘into the cloud’ (e.g. as reported here by the BBC ), on the other hand, the cloud can offer a more secure environment than lots of local systems which may not be updated for security and cybercrime. Businesses will need to find a provider with a good reputation to prevent any risk of data loss, leaks or cybercrimes.
● Integration with existing systems – amongst the biggest hurdles faced by established businesses considering migrating to the cloud are fears about integrating their legacy technology with the new cloud systems. While many firms are keen to move over they still need to be able to access and use existing files and data. They also need to achieve the migration without loss of data – migrating this data can be challenging and needs proper attention.
Challenges for moving to the cloud
One important area all business will need to address when moving to the cloud is – compliance. Surprisingly, despite the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) quickly coming around the corner, only over a third (34%) of businesses in one survey saw this as a key consideration when making cloud infrastructure decisions. ( Information Age )
As a business-owner you may not know where to start – don’t panic. Expert professional help is available. Firms such as 360ict Ltd have a wealth of experience in helping businesses, locally and further afield, with their IT needs. It can help with your digital transformation into the cloud. A good starting point is to be clear about your desired business objectives for the move.
You’ll usually also need to bring most of your staff on board – it’s no good if some staff have migrated to using, for example, Google Drive to write and store files, while other are still sticking to Microsoft Word and then emailing them.
It’s clear that a lot of businesses have already acquired experience of using cloud applications at one level or another. This means that they are ready to take the next step towards a paperless and ‘anytime, anywhere’ IT approach which cloud computing offers. It’s the next generation of cloud computing which could be a real game-changer for firms. Those not yet ready to take the leap could consider a hybrid solution – here cloud services can be combined with on premise infrastructure.
Whatever your ultimate goal, 360ict Ltd can help businesses who are considering moving to the cloud. We can provide a range of Cloud and Data Centre Solutions – see further information on this website about how we can support you in moving to the cloud.