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How is the cloud helping UK SMEs?

According to a survey by BT and the British Chamber of Commerce, the number of SMEs using cloud computing has increased by 15% over the past 12-months. But why is the cloud becoming so important to small businesses?

What is the cloud? The cloud

‘The cloud’ is the colloquial term for a network of servers – remote computers that are accessed online. It’s generally used to deliver two types of service:

1. Storage, e.g. Google Drive and Dropbox, which enable users to upload, store and share files. 2. Computing (software), e.g. Adobe Creative Cloud or Microsoft Office 365, which allow customers to run programs via the Internet, without download or installation.

These services are generally accessed via service provider websites, and are paid for by monthly or annual subscription.

What are the benefits?

A KPMG survey of around 800 tech industry leaders identified cloud computing as the technology that will have the greatest impact on driving business transformation for enterprises.

Where employees would once have had to be in the office to use certain software or access important files, cloud-based systems mean that they can access them anywhere, using any machine, which has huge cost-saving implications.

Enabling employees to work remotely frees businesses to cut overheads like office space and computer hardware; but it also means the workforce is both flexible and scalable.

Employees can work at times that suit them to boost productivity, or work in shifts to meet client demands. If a company grows, new staff can be hired without additional investment in computers and software.

What are the limitations?

Kester Mann, Principal Analyst at CCS Insight, believes UK SMEs are suffering from under-delivery of superfast broadband connectivity (just 56% currently have access to the service), and fears that “they don't have the time or resources to compare offers because they're smaller."

The latter point chimes with wider concerns over cloud computing. KPMG says 53% of executives are concerned about data loss and privacy, and 50% are worried about intellectual property theft. These are serious risks that SMEs must devote time and manpower to addressing if they are to effectively harness the power of cloud computing.

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