Alan Stewart, ICT Consultant

Alan Stewart, Senior ICT Consultant

SMEs should be the most enthusiastic adopters of cloud but they are held back by out-dated worries, says Alan Stewart, Senior ICT Consultant at Belfast based Cloud Computing Specialists Precept IT.

I read an article recently that outlined that UK SMEs are rejecting cloud storage, with fears over ‘time’ and ‘money’ implications cited as the main barriers.

The research that the article was based on, conducted by IT support company Icomm Technologies, concluded that just 13 per cent of UK SMEs are using cloud as their primary storage platform, and that only one in five believes that cloud will become their primary means of storage in the future.

SMEs are now facing a fork in the road when it comes to their IT decisions. With more and more businesses on the whole moving to the cloud, SMEs must decide whether to continue using the traditional three- to five-year infrastructure lifecycle of servers, networking and on-premises facilities or take the leap into the cloud.

For many, the multitude of options now available to organisations – move all services to the cloud, or just some; opt for business continuity or disaster recovery; go for a test and development environment – prove all too confusing. However, there are many benefits to be gained from moving to the cloud including greater scalability, efficiency, flexibility and mobility.

Cloud computing gives enterprises the ability to deploy computing resources when needed, at a known cost and service level. IT departments can store their data in a known location, at a level of security at which they feel comfortable, with the ability to flex cloud storage up and down when it is needed. In addition to this, employees can access the cloud through the internet via web protocols.

In the real world, organisations are using the cloud to satisfy a variety of needs including backup, the offloading of old or archival data, for email and collaboration, migration of on-premises servers, business continuity and disaster recovery, test and development, new websites and big data and/or analytics.

Cloud computingThe truth of the matter is that SMEs should be the most enthusiastic adopters of cloud computing. With the advent of ‘always on’ lifestyles and instant gratification, even small organisations with say five or 10 servers should be considering the impact of not being able to operate their IT infrastructure and experiencing downtime. SMEs must consider how their business would be affected if they were offline for a day, a week or a fortnight.

With its ability to reduce the complexity, cost and IT resource that often comes with on-premise solutions cloud computing should be a must for SMEs. Here are some key points for organisations to consider.

  • Cloud computing is no longer leading edge technology – therefore the risk factor is very low. For SMEs considering a move to the cloud there are multiple low cost and low risk entry points available. Low risk initial solutions to consider include backup, infrastructure-as-a-service and cloud-hosted VMs.
  • Pay-as-you-go provides a low-risk entry point to cloud – providing pricing on a month-to-month basis and allowing for SMEs who might prefer a shorter term commitment to the cloud.
  • Disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) is usually more relevant for the mid- to larger sized businesses – for such organisations it is vital that IT departments know how to protect against disasters and outages. For SMEs this precaution is not so critical but none the less worth considering dependent on business requirements especially as cloud DRaaS now makes this highly affordable for smaller businesses. Whilst larger organisations may potentially have substantial legacy infrastructure and bespoke systems they are unwilling or unable to quickly move into the cloud, smaller more flexible and agile organisations have no such entrenched, complex IT to protect and preserve and as such should have a far easier time migrating to the cloud.
  • Experiment with a number of different cloud vendors. SMEs can experiment with larger cloud vendors, but should also consider other alternative vendors for more specialised needs. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

As an SME considering cloud adoption it is vital to remember that with the rapid development of cloud services, cloud adoption is no longer a risky step into the unknown. As outlined in this article, there are many low-risk options for organisations looking to simply ‘dip their toe in the water’, and with the variety of cloud vendors in the market the possibilities for SMEs looking to migrate to the cloud are endless.

To my mind, it is surprising that smaller companies would even consider buying physical servers to manage their data, when the benefits of cloud adoption are so extensive.