Moving a small business to the cloud speaks to lower turnover firms about their experiences in implementing Microsoft cloud procedures into their business.

Cloud computing is on the rise among small businesses. According to an independent survey on the adoption of cloud computing among IT decision-makers across eight countries in Europe, 60 per cent of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) have already moved at least some of their infrastructure or applications to the cloud.

Focusing on the UK in particular, 82 per cent of UK organisations with a virtualised IT infrastructure have moved at least some of their IT infrastructure or applications to the cloud, in comparison to just 3 per cent of UK cloud-using organisations that have not virtualised, according to the same study.

Cost savings are still the primary driver for most cloud deployments, with some 37 per cent of organisations in Europe citing reduced IT hardware costs and reduced IT maintenance costs through using the cloud.

Small music company Mighty Village deployed Microsoft Online Services, delivered from the Cloud, to join up a team that worked in different parts of the country and, along with Microsoft Office 2010 and Microsoft Windows 7, to improve productivity and efficiency.

Previously in the company, different people used different types of computer and different software packages. To add to the complexity, they also used different email systems. The diversity was holding the firm and its associates back, so the decision was made to bring everything together. ‘If everyone’s using the same tools, it makes the job easier, doesn’t it?’ says finance director Nick Brown. ‘A common platform would improve productivity and knowledge sharing.’

Using advanced technology would also help the company support its artists. In addition, Brown wanted the company to become more efficient. He saw that hundreds of emails were going back and forth when it would be much more productive to store files centrally and give people joint access to them.

With people working in far-flung parts of the country, bringing in Microsoft Online Services gave the company new ways to communicate, regardless of the geographical distance between employees. Exchange Online let everyone in the company share the same email system and access it using Microsoft Outlook 2010. SharePoint online gave everyone in the company access to a private, secure internal intranet website. Finally, Office Communications Online offered the company an instant message system that works well for quick requests and fast exchanges in real time. Says Brown, ‘Microsoft is obviously thinking about how to make people’s lives easier,” says Brown. ‘It’s a bit like [a high end car] – it doesn’t look much different but you really appreciate the details.’

Based near the famous Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, UK, Cornish pasty maker Proper Cornish wanted to operate a standardised way of communicating that was cost-effective, low maintenance, and provided one email address for employees across the company.

IT Manager Mark Lowe explains, ‘With the business growing, we were taking on more office staff at our premises in Redruth. We had wanted a consistent e-mail address and one way of working for some time, and the introduction of the new employees – and the emergence of cloud computing and online services – made it an ideal time to consider a change.’

A low-maintenance, cost-effective solution was imperative. Lowe continues, ‘Proper Cornish was running two email servers inhouse and they cost us £4 per day, plus the cost of someone to support and maintain them. Costs were getting out of control. Plus, email maintenance and dealing with spam was starting to take up far too much of our time. The opportunity to buy an email system that was hosted for us and available to buy on a per-user, per-month basis seemed like the logical step forward.’

As for the company’s IT team, they are now able to focus on other priorities, such as enhancing their wider IT infrastructure to support the growing business. Lowe says, ‘We have freed up a third of our time now we no longer have to maintain and manage the email servers. We can now spend this time helping the business with other, more pressing IT requirements.’

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