Q&A: Why SMEs needn't be scared of the cloud

Cloud computing has been a growing trend amongst both enterprises and SMEs for some time now and it's unlikely to be going away any time soon.

To learn more about the current and future trends of cloud in the SME sector, we spoke to Adrian Ah-Chin-Kow, EMEA Director for SMB & Cloud Services Platform at Insight UK.

  1. What is Insight UK up to at the moment?

Insight is founded on offering choice, value and availability to our customers and we don’t intend to walk away from what has made us successful. Over the last 12 months, we have focused on deploying a range of cloud services as we believe in the long run, many customers will realise the benefits of cloud and move more off premise or to a more hybrid approach.

For a number of years, cloud services have been available, but paid for through traditional licensing agreements. Currently we are in the process of launching a system by which our clients can buy from us on a per user per monthly basis. This means they will only pay for what they consume. We also offer the suites of products, like Office 365, but are providing our own range of Managed Services to give support options to SMEs. By outsourcing the management and support of their IT to ourselves, SMEs can focus more time on their core business values and it’s the day to day running.

  1. What current trends are you seeing in cloud adoption among SMEs?

What we are seeing is what we have seen all year – but it is accelerating.

People are realising cloud is nothing new, and businesses have been using cloud services for many years. For example using a Hotmail account to receive emails. The technology has always been a hosted cloud solution.

However, cloud adoption has really accelerated in the last year as more mainstream mass-market applications come into play. Organisations are moving away from Microsoft office on premise, to off premise solutions like Microsoft office 365. This rise in off-premise popularity is because it gives all the functionality business are used to from the past decade of technology solutions, but it allows SMEs to move more into the cloud, which can then be accessed anywhere and from a range of devices.

Businesses understand employees don’t need to be tethered to their desk to be productive.

  1. Of the SMEs that haven't yet made the move to cloud, what are the main issues holding them back?

Nothing is holding them back, other than a lack of understanding of how easy it is to move into the cloud and how low risk it is. There is a responsibility of the IT industry to de-mystify the cloud, as all the cloud is, is the next stage in the evolution of how businesses use IT.

Historically, while you may have been able to move workloads into the cloud, there was still often only traditional ways of buying these solutions via annual upfront payments – which can hinder an organisation’s choice to go off-premise. Now, new economics of how SMEs can pay for what they consume as the cloud can scale up and down according to demand, means increasingly there are less and less barriers to SMEs moving to the cloud.

  1. Is business continuity an issue when integrating with cloud solutions and, if so, what can companies do to minimise the risks?

Business continuity is generally not an issue when moving into proven public cloud solutions as resilience is already built into the solution. Looking at global powerhouses like Microsoft Azure, they invested billions into fault resilience and developing scalable solutions. And while outages are incredibly rare, businesses offer service credits for downtime so people can be assured in the very unlikely event of an outage, they are covered.

The only area where people should be mindful is if they are investing in a smaller, independent provider who has built their own datacentre. In those circumstances, it is worth asking questions as to the resilience of the platform.

Also, there will always be the question around security, but from this design and resilience perspective, these solutions are built to the highest global standards. Effectively a customer will be subscribing to a quality of service that they couldn’t economically attain if they were looking to install it onto their own premises.

  1. What are the main benefits that cloud solutions offer to SMEs and larger enterprises?

The predominant benefit from investing in cloud solutions is that they are scalable. If a business is growing – or wants to grow and become more agile – SMEs need to invest well ahead of the growth curve so they don’t max out their data storage capability. Cloud use grows in line with the business and means SMEs don’t have to upgrade their systems ahead of growth and end up maintaining capacity they don’t yet need.

Additionally, investing in cloud solutions means SMEs gain access to enterprise grade, very well invested in architecture - and someone else is responsible keeping it running!

  1. The UK is currently leading the way in terms of SME cloud adoption. Why do you think this is and what can vendors do to ensure the trend continues?

Britain, for many years, has had a very strong flare for entrepreneurialism and our business-centric society tends to proactively search for smarter ways of doing things. Making businesses smarter and more nimble has long been at the forefront, and embedded within our business culture is looking first and foremost as to what technology can do to accelerate this.

IT is adding the most readily impactful approach to supporting this. Now, as businesses understand and can identify what exactly it is they want, we have seen the radical increase in speed of cloud implementation. This is not only due to the rate of the innovation of applications, but it is also about changing the economic model of the way those services are offered. Pay-as-you-go capabilities have supported SMEs in being more agile and smarter about how they run their businesses.

  1. What future cloud adoption trends do you expect to see in the next few months?

Clearly we expect to see adoption accelerate along the same core paths, but as customers begin to feel more comfortable with the cloud, and move more applications offsite, more clients will shift focus to solutions such as disaster recovery held in the cloud and Backup-as-a-Service. We can also expect to see the emergence of, not only, more application software delivered via cloud solutions, but increased delivery of the support services that wrap around them.

Now people are accepting and consuming cloud as part of their IT strategy – the “vanilla” part of cloud computing - is complete, businesses like Insight will increasingly add more value by creating the services that surround it.

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