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Why SMEs should consider cloud computing

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Many enterprises have begun exploring cloud-based infrastructure, but it is SMEs that stand to benefit the most. Aptronics’ technical service manager, Neels Pretorius, outlines the reasons SMEs cannot afford to overlook the cloud.
In 2014, World Wide Worx found that 22% of South African SMEs were using cloud services, an increase from just 9% two years earlier. It’s an impressive leap in uptake and that number is set to grow even more as SMEs become more aware of the ins and outs of managed services.
At Aptronics, we’re seeing more of our SME clients enquire about what cloud can do for their business, and for good reason. Cloud-based infrastructure in particular is ideally suited for small businesses and start-ups for a number of good reasons:
* No upfront costs – Capital investment into IT infrastructure remains one of the biggest expenses for small businesses, often running into hundreds of thousands of Rands. Subscription-based infrastructure models offer potentially huge capex savings for SMEs looking to maintain tighter control over their cash flow. Businesses can simply pay for services on a subscription basis rather than having to invest significant amounts of money into building an on-premise infrastructure.
* Reduced time to market – Setting up a new business and bringing it online has traditionally taken weeks or months. One of the biggest benefits of cloud infrastructure is the near real-time speed-to-market it affords businesses. Instead of having to wait for lengthy IT provisioning, start-ups can take advantage of readily available services at an excellent price, allowing them to bring their products to market in hours.
* Flexibility – Most businesses with existing on-premises infrastructure typically underutilise their computing resources. Cloud IT services operate on a pay-per-use model, allowing businesses to only make use of what they need, when they need it. This allows for a predetermined cost per person, freeing up an enormous amount of flexibility form a business planning point-of-view.
* Always on – Having a fully mobile and adaptable workforce is a huge competitive advantage in today’s globalised market. Cloud-based services are designed to be available all the time and on any device, whether laptop, tablet or smartphone. Services like Office 365 and virtual desktops empower users to do their jobs anywhere and at any time, leading to a boost in collaboration and productivity.
* Scalability – Providing a fully supported and functional IT network requires a multitude of specialised skills. The result is that many SMEs must funnel valuable resources away from their core competencies or simply cannot afford the necessary skills. With cloud-based services, the complications of implementation, maintenance and support are removed as the cloud provider already has the expertise available. The pay-per-use model also allows SMEs are able to scale as they grow without needing to continuously invest in costly human resources and skills development.
* Data protection – Some companies have shied away from cloud services due to misperceptions about the integrity of their data. In fact, SMEs can enjoy even greater data protection and recovery when partnered with the right service providers. Because of the cloud’s ability to store data in multiple locations, companies can rest assured that can always access their data, even should disaster strike. In addition, SMEs can have access to specialised expertise through their cloud providers, making backup and recovery both simpler and more cost effective.