In recent years, the surge in the number of businesses turning to ‘the cloud’ has been substantial. Cloud computing has come to occupy a central role in the modern IT landscape for small businesses and large enterprises alike. Why? It facilitates flexibility, agility and scalability.
The latest research from the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) revealed that 84 per cent of businesses in Britain currently use the cloud. This demonstrates a significant increase in usage since 2010, when this figure stood at 48 per cent. What’s more, almost four in five of these firms have adopted at least two cloud services. The services these businesses are most likely to base in the cloud include email, webhosting, collaboration services, ecommerce and online marketing services.
However, whilst cloud use is soaring among business users, the research also highlighted that final decision-making falls to the head of IT/CIO in almost three fifths (59 per cent) of organisations. This poses a risk that businesses are failing to see the holistic potential of integrated cloud solutions and instead may just see cloud computing as a new delivery mechanism for software.
So what exactly is the business case for cloud computing?
The primary motivation for businesses turning to the cloud is to cut capital expenditure. Cost savings are appealing, with UK businesses currently saving around 11 per cent from their use of cloud services, a figure predicted to increase to 19 per cent by 2020.
By hosting software and IT systems outside of the business infrastructure, firms can benefit from greater resilience and reliability, along with 24/7 access to IT support. Using a cloud provider is a more efficient use of a limited IT budget, as there are fewer in-house IT costs, but business information is always readily available and the risk of data loss significantly reduced.
The advantages the cloud delivers do not start and end with the bottom line. To stay ahead of the curve in today’s competitive landscape, businesses must be agile. ‘Pay as you go’ style cloud services facilitate this, enabling firms to easily scale up their use of cloud as they grow, or temporarily reduce spend should their requirements dictate.
Cloud computing also offers a variety of less easily quantifiable business benefits, such as higher levels of customer service and engagement, improved collaboration, increased employee satisfaction and a more motivated, loyal workforce.
On top of this, empowering staff to work remotely and being flexible with working hours can be transformative. However, employees must have access to important data at all times, even when not working from the office. This applies to all communications and processes, from emails and invoicing, to sales data and telephony. Businesses should consider using cloud-based productivity tools such as Office 365 for email, calendar and file sharing.
According to CIF’s latest insight, security concerns remain the principal reason why businesses are failing to migrate their applications to the cloud. There also remains a lack of clarity around the complexity of migration, data sovereignty and dependency on internet access.
For example, over the last 12 months, concerns about data security in the cloud have risen by almost ten per cent, with 70 per cent of UK businesses citing this feat. However, the reality experienced by cloud users does not reflect these concerns, with the latest research revealing that 99 per cent of firms have never been subject to a data breach.
The perception remains that by storing company data ‘outside’ the business, it is insecure. Yet cloud computing is often more robust than on premise IT solutions, as established cloud providers employ leading security experts, invest large amounts of resource into securing their applications and develop technology significantly beyond the means of any small or medium sized business.
What’s more, cloud software diminishes the risk of losing confidential data on a mobile device, laptop or USB stick.
A Sunny Future
Security concerns aside, the forecast for the industry looks bright, with cloud penetration among UK businesses reaching an all-time high.
This year more organisations are planning to venture into the cloud for the first time, and take advantage of the benefits it provides. For businesses already in the cloud, additional services are being added every day. CIF’s latest findings predict that CRM, data backup, disaster recovery services and data storage are among the areas set to see the largest increase in adoption over the next 12 months.
CIF’s research shows that we’ve reached a point where entire businesses can be run from the cloud. It’s now simply a matter of when they opt to move to the cloud, not if.