There has been no shortage of analysis of the cloud, and the business benefits it can bring. Unsurprisingly for an emerging technology, there has been a great deal of confusion about what it is and how businesses can use it.
The uptake of cloud computing has even been slow among smaller businesses, which traditionally tend to be quicker to adopt new technologies. One piece of research found only 9% of small and medium-sized businesses were using the cloud at the end of 2011.
I think this is set to change and change dramatically. Our research found that one in four small businesses are transforming the way they work by embracing the cloud. Nearly half of these firms started using online software to run their business in the past 12 months.
The adoption of cloud technology amongst small businesses is really starting to gain momentum – something we have seen with our own cloud software. Reduced spending, more efficient use of time and the ability to stay connected regardless of location are factors that can improve business productivity, performance and - ultimately - stability and growth.
However, although adoption is increasing, confusion still exists. Many of our customers have needed advice about how to move services over into the cloud, and help to understand how it can best benefit their business.
If your business is considering a move to the cloud, here's my layman's guide to what to think about before making the transition:
- There is no 'one cloud fits all' solution. Speak to experts who can help you understand how best to use the cloud and get advice on how best to implement the technology in different parts of your business. Analyse the risks and rewards involved, and the resources and support needed to deliver a smooth transition.
- Identify what existing services can benefit from the cloud. For example, should you focus on your file and email servers, storage systems and databases, office applications, or finance and accounting?
- Invest in your technology. Can your existing services handle the move? Is your internet connection fast enough? Have you got a backup plan in case your connection goes down?
- Make sure you have strong security. Keep internal and external security measures up to date, managed and monitored. Even if you aren't using the cloud yet, your employees might be. Create a cloud security policy that covers the whole business. Choose your suppliers carefully, review their procedures, understand potential threats and how to avoid them.
- Plan, test and review. Talk to everyone and anyone you can about their challenges with the cloud, speak to staff ahead of a move and get their view on how it will impact their roles. Take it slowly – test the services and encourage feedback from staff, clients and suppliers. Conduct regular reviews to ensure you identify any potential issues before they happen.
Nick Goode is head of Sage One, a cloud-based accounts and payroll service from Sage (UK) Limited that requires no formal training and includes FREE 24/7 customer support and advice. Register for a FREE 30 day trial now or visit www.facebook.com/SageOneUK to find out more.