It's hard to have any discussion about IT these days without the cloud cropping up. A few years ago, this technology was still an emerging solution limited to ambitious early adopters, but by 2015 it had become a mainstream solution that was impossible to ignore.
Indeed, figures from the Cloud Industry Forum reveal 84% of businesses in the UK now deploy at least one cloud technology, with almost four-fifths of firms using two or more tools.
But many small and medium-sized businesses - particularly those without a large IT department - may still be uncertain about what the cloud offers, or how it could benefit their operations.
With this in mind, here are three key benefits of the cloud that all small firms should be aware of.
1. Cut your costs
Because cloud service are delivered via the internet, it means businesses won’t have to invest in the same level of hardware, that they would need if they were to run their entire operations traditionally. However, this reduced capital expenditure is not the only way a well-managed cloud service can have a positive impact on a company's expenses.
Software-as-a-service solutions such as Microsoft Office 365 are provided on a monthly basis, so there is no upfront cost. And with the tools these solutions can provide all under one subscription, businesses can make a wide range of savings on everything from reduced third-party software to travel costs.
2. Work anywhere, anytime
Another key trend that is transforming the way companies do business is the rise of mobility. In the past few years, more powerful smartphones and tablets have given users all the capabilities of a PC in the palm of their hand, so it is natural employees will want to take advantage of this to work whenever and wherever they want.
If companies are still relying on traditional, on-premise solutions, enabling mobile working can be a major headache. They will have to set up solutions to securely deliver applications and data to mobile devices and spend time and resources ensuring that they are able to be used properly on a range of gadgets.
Cloud tools can eliminate many of these issues. With applications delivered via this method, all a user needs to be productive is a reliable internet connection. Plus, most software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions have been tailored specifically to work on all major operating systems - including Windows Phone, iOS and Android - so small and medium-sized firms will not have to worry about any compatibility issues.
3. Grow with your business
For many firms with on-premise systems, the expense and time needed to upgrade servers and other hardware as they grow may be one of the biggest barriers that prevents them from reaching their full potential.
The cloud is more flexible and easily scalable. For instance, if a business wishes to increase its headcount, it will be very straightforward to add new users to a cloud SaaS solution - whereas obtaining licenses for on-premise alternatives may be more difficult.
Similarly, adding computing resources to cope with a growing business or a short-term spike in traffic is also made simple with the cloud, while flexible solutions enable businesses to select only the functionality they require and avoid wasting money on tools or capacity they do not need.
Want to try Office365 and see if it can change the way you do business? Thanks to Microsoft, the North East Growth Hub is offering firms a 10% discount on the cost of Office365 – just sign up using this link to take advantage of this offer.`