Being on board with cloud options means your company needn’t look small. Andy Hinxman presents some other benefits.
Remember fax machines, pagers and dot matrix printers? Well now you can add something else to that list of disappearing office equipment – life before the cloud. As daft as it may seem, if you have staff who are under 21 years old there is every chance they won’t remember a time when the cloud wasn’t part of their life, whether it is personal or business.
The cloud means many things. Such as Dropbox, where you can share your video, photos and document files, ideal for wedding photos and holidays where a large number of people want to see the images. For businesses or public sector organisations who don’t want to install Dropbox then WeSendit and WeTransfer are other cloud-based systems where you can move around large volumes of material.
The cloud is, in fact, everywhere and has been for a while but it has been a quiet evolution rather than a revolution. Many of our clients would never have dreamed of using the cloud three years ago. But now it is getting to the point that it would be foolish not to. The question is when.
Pre-cloud everything technical had to be on site. That meant servers, server rooms and technical staff to look after them and cooling equipment to keep the servers (and the technicians) at the right temperature. It meant if something went wrong then you had to call someone out. If there was a transport issue and people couldn’t get into work then no work was done. If you lost all your work because your hardware was no longer working then there was little you could do. Or whatever you did do could take days. Meanwhile your staff are sat around twiddling their thumbs.
Remember when you got halfway through a document, tender, or report and forgot to save it or the computer crashed and you had to start again? It sounds stone age now but it did happen.
So although we are sorry to say goodbye to the men in black (why are technicians still predominantly male and wear black?) the fact is that for small to medium sized businesses it is more cost-effective and secure to use the cloud.
I do appreciate that some are still reluctant to move across to the cloud but we are moving towards a time when companies will not have a choice. So when you come to do any sort of technical update this is the ideal time to think about making that move.
For example, you are going to have to replace your servers every three to five years anyway. Do it then. Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP last year. If you are still using Windows 2003 that support stops this month. This is a good time to think about moving to the cloud-based Office 365 instead.
Move over to the cloud as and when you are thinking of upgrading and it will cause minimum disruption and less expense in both time and money. Don’t wait until you’re forced to do it.
So let’s look on the bright side. What can the cloud offer SMEs? Here are my top five reasons for going on the cloud.
- You can access your documents, data etc. from anywhere. If it snows and your staff can’t get into work then they can work from home. If your office catches fire or you are evacuated from your building, your staff can work from a nearby coffee shop. If you are travelling and need to put in a quote then you can do that from your mobile device.
- If you lose data, your computer system goes down, dries up, falls under a bus the chances of recovery are much higher because all that information is also in the Cloud. It means you can still contact your customers and most importantly you still have that customer information.
- You can add memory on virtual servers and increase storage easily and at little extra cost. This is great for a small business as you don’t have to have a major outlay right at the start. You can buy more as you grow.
- If you want a hosted desktop then that is possible with the cloud. So if anything goes wrong you have your own technical helpdesk who retrieve systems, provide a helpline, remote assistance and can monitor and deal with potential viruses.
- Whether it is Google Docs or Microsoft Office 365 the cloud means your staff can collaborate on documents in real time. You can be on the train to Oldham while your colleague is in Twickenham and both be working on the same report.
Noone likes being pushed into doing anything but the cloud is here to stay so use it to your advantage. One of my clients told me she had been unhappy when emails were introduced because she thought they would replace the idea of actually talking to people. In some ways it has but it has also meant we can do business a lot quicker than having to try to catch people on the phone.
One of the best things about the cloud is that it means a small business won’t appear small. Noone needs to know where you are while you are writing that document, whether your office is plush or you are working from your back bedroom. It is the work you do and the service you give to customers that counts…just make sure you haven’t turned on the webcam.
Andy Hinxman is owner and founder of Keybridge IT Solutions.