Four SMEs on how cloud helped their development

Here, Nigel Breddy speaks to company owners about the effect of employing cloud solutions on growth.

Britain is home to a wealth of resourceful start-ups. A growing number of these ventures are have been created by tech entrepreneurs. These tech start-ups are now leading innovation within the UK.

The increased accessibility of cloud computing solutions have enabled these start-ups to not only start new ventures, but it has also provided the scalability for growth and cost-effective software development.

In order to find out more about how these start-ups have effectively utilised cloud computing, we have spoken to a number of successful tech start-ups who have shared their insights and experiences of using cloud computing for their businesses.

Steve Thair, co-founder of application management solutions company DevOpsGuys 

Firstly, cloud enables us to use SaaS platforms for all our back-office functions – email (Gmail), accounting (Freeagent), HR (Zoho), CRM (CapsuleCRM), Chat (Slack) etc. These offer a low-cost entry point for startups and they work well with a distributed workforce. As long as you have internet access you can access the tools. Secondly, we use cloud computing providers like AWS, Rackspace and Azure with our clients to help them host and manage their applications. We can compete with larger services companies because we don’t need our own datacentres or physical hardware, and we can use DevOps tools and Cloud API’s to automate our work which makes us more efficient. We can also use SaaS tools to help us manage our customers’ applications e.g. monitoring (Dataloop), APM (AppDynamics) or alerting (Pagerduty). Cloud levels the playing field, and changes the economics, such that smaller, nimbler startups like DevOpsGuys can get a foothold in the market and deliver a better services, at a better price, than traditional providers. And that’s good for us and good for our customers.

Serge Taborin, co-founder of drinks ordering app Q App

The process of starting and scaling a digital start-up has changed beyond recognition over the past few years. Gone are the days of needing to raise significant investment to buy some servers, then hire some office space to keep them in (or having to work from a garage). And then having to fix or replace them when things went wrong. For Q App, cloud computing has made it possible to develop a highly sophisticated platform without having to make heavy investment in infrastructure, while providing us with the cost flexibility and the level of back-up ad support we needed. With Q App now deployed in some of UK’s biggest and high profile venues, this ability to quickly scale up and down as our traffic levels peaked and fell has proven invaluable. Just as importantly, we’ve been able to embed a host of cloud-based tools to support our business, from CRM to payment processing, which has enabled to run an extremely lean organisation.

Spencer Waldron, UK country manager of cloud-based presentation software company Prezi 

Cloud-based software has been critical to our growth, particularly as a company that, very early on, established itself across two offices that are many time zones apart. Communication has been central to our progression, and the cloud has made this effortless. We use a blend of cloud-based tools to collaborate together as a global team. With offices in Europe and the US, and other team members based all over the world, it’s critical we work effectively despite the distances. Our favourite combination is Blue Jeans and our own SaaS presentation programme Prezi. We get everyone online inside a Blue Jeans conference call and then open up Prezi and use it like a digital whiteboard to brainstorm ideas together. We will have anywhere from six to ten people inside the Prezi at the same time, where we can map out ideas or put a timeline together that we can then make into a presentation to present or share internally. The great aspect of this for us is that if someone needs to make an update or change to the work later on, the link will still lead to the most recent version of it, removing that age old problem of people having old versions of a document. It makes life much more efficient. We also use the Blue Jeans-Prezi combo for online presenting when teams are on different continents. One person starts presenting in the US office and half way through hands over control of the presentation to someone in our Budapest office

Rory Gibson, chief technology officer at e-commerce optimisation technology company Bright North

Cloud computing helps to encourage business diversity, giving an opportunity to set up a business to those that might not ordinarily have it due to lack of access to hosted services or cost-effective data storage. In its crucial first few weeks, Bright North developed as a business from one of its founders’ apartment with no infrastructure other than cloud. Bright North utilises robust cloud services to host its platform and also utilise client data to help them earn more through their ecommerce operations. The company’s rapid growth wouldn’t have been possible without the flexibility and accessibility of hosted services available today. The use of third party hosted applications also allows greater flexibility for Bright North’s staff, for example remote working and meetings, or promoting a more productive environment with online applications such as Trello, Slack or Google Apps. Cloud computing gives Bright North the ability to scale storage up or down almost instantly as required. This also means more cost effective hosting, as a business we don’t need to pay for storage we’re not currently using. And security; a mixture of cloud-based and data centres mean risk is distributed across providers. If one server goes down, Bright North has multiple others to take the load.

We hope that these insights have inspired you to look at the potential cloud computing could provide for your new venture!

Nigel Breddy is the managing director of Databax.

Further reading on cloud computing

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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