In the past, one of the main setbacks SMEs faced was not having the resources and technology of their big business competitors. With cloud technology, this has changed.
Cloud computing has seen huge investment in recent years, and worldwide spending on cloud technology is expected to climb to $107 billion in 2017. It has transformed the way IT resources and software are used. The benefits are clear: improved efficiency, lower costs and a more flexible work space. But for me, the biggest benefit is how it has created a more technologically ‘fair’ market.
How Does Cloud Computing Work For SMEs?
The concept behind cloud computing is simple: instead of storing information and software on your office server or computer, you can store data and access software via the internet. Cloud computing creates an online hub for your business, accessed via a password anywhere and on any device.
Using cloud technology is like renting a house instead of buying – no risks, no big outlay and you’re not tied to it in any way. The only difference being that you automatically get updated software when it becomes available – something which certainly doesn’t happen when you’re renting an apartment and fancy upgrading to the house next door.
IT products have become a service and this not only makes life easier, but it gives small businesses access to cutting edge software. This allows small businesses to compete with large retailers like never before because they can provide the same level of service to their customers.
The Benefits of the Cloud
1. Saves Money
In a recent survey by Time Magazine, 90% of small businesses say that cloud computing has helped them save money. Before cloud computing became an option, IT was an expensive outlay and became a real worry for many small businesses. With IT staff, maintenance, server rooms and of course the servers themselves, IT was a costly and complicated operation which could be a real headache for businesses struggling to get off the ground.
With cloud technology, you pay for what you need on a monthly basis and all the maintenance and updates and are covered by your service provider – meaning businesses can focus on business rather than IT maintenance.
2. Reduce Risks
Starting a business can be a risky venture. You can never really know what’s round the corner, so if you can reduce the risks, then that is a great start. Cloud computing does this in two ways. Firstly, there are no unexpected costs, as it is a fixed rate bill. Secondly, IT becomes someone else’s problem as it is down to your service provider to sort out any issues.
If something goes wrong, all you have to do is make a phone call. No costs and no tricky decisions. This allows small businesses to focus on utilizing the technology they have got. The less time you spend maintaining your IT, the more time you can actually spend using it.
3. Improve Efficiency
Previously rising costs may have forced SMEs to plod along with outdated software, but cloud hosting puts an end to second-rate technology. Using a cloud service provider for your software means that you will always have access to the latest version of whatever software your business needs.
Cloud technology enables you to have all the information you need at your fingertips, making your businesses more efficient. The ease at which you can share data online encourages collaboration and can drive your business forward.
4. Allows Businesses to Grow
One of the main reasons why cloud technology creates a level playing field for small businesses is simple: it allows them to grow. With access to the latest software and the ability to collaborate and share data, small businesses are able to stay competitive against the large retailers that dominate the market.
The ability to pay per month gives businesses the option to scale up or scale down to meet the demands of their business. This flexible approach to business allows retailers to expand and grow in their own time, without having to take the plunge into an icy pool of costs, risks and fierce competition.
If you want to expand, you can simply pay for more memory and software. This also allows you to easily develop your workforce and this is particularly useful if your business has a contact center. As all services are accessed via the internet, you can create a contact center wherever you are in the world and you don’t even need an office. Cloud technology even enables you to create a virtual contact center, with agents working from home.
Even if you have an office for your call center, you can expand using remote workers during busy periods. This flexibility is what can give small businesses the ability to compete.
It is therefore not surprising that studies have shown cloud computing has allowed 49% of small businesses to grow. Cloud technology has created a world where small businesses have the same cutting-edge software as big-name retailers and this can only be a good thing.
Using the cloud, small businesses can cut costs, lower risks and have access to the same technology as large retailers. This allows small businesses to compete and most importantly, to grow.
How do you think cloud technology will change the place of small businesses in the marketplace? Share your thoughts below.