When Will Your Business Be Fully Cloud-First?

Hosted ServicesSmall businesses and startups are most able to take advantage of new cloud technologies. That’s according to an IDC report. It says that 70 per cent of SMEs now engage with the cloud in some way. SMEs are using 4 cloud apps per company, on average, while the fastest adoption is taking place among millennials: people who reached adulthood around the year 2000.

Consider the fact that many of today’s entrepreneurs can barely remember a world without the web. They are adaptable when it comes to new technology, and they are open to trying new ideas. It’s no wonder: they’ve grown up with the cloud. Millennials are already forming new companies that are disrupting established markets, and they’re using digital tools relatively freely.

If your business is to compete with these new, highly agile competitors, it needs to take a cloud-first approach to its business IT. That may mean invoking massive culture change.

Are you ready for the challenge?

Defining Cloud-First

The US government coined the term ‘cloud-first’ to encourage departments to use cloud technologies as a first option. This policy was designed to speed up migration to the cloud, therefore encouraging a more economical use of IT.

And it worked. Hundreds of US government data centres have closed, or are in the process of being decommissioned, because so many departments are leveraging cloud storage and processing power instead. The cloud is creating a less wasteful IT landscape, and delivering massive savings. Already, the US Department of Agriculture has saved $75 million by moving to the cloud, and expects to save another $125 million as its adoption strategy continues. That’s just one department of hundreds.

Here at home, the UK government also has a cloud-first policy, although it has failed to deliver the same kinds of savings as its US peers.

Is this a cultural issue, or perhaps a generational one?

Changing Times

By 2020, millennials will make up 50 per cent of the world’s workforce. And millennials are the people most likely to understand, accept and trust cloud technologies.

In contrast, look at attitudes within the UK civil service: 43 per cent of employees are still printing and posting documents to each other, because the cloud is still viewed with suspicion, or seen as a barrier to normal ways of working.

In a survey, 78 per cent of civil service IT workers were concerned about cloud security, while 68 per cent said time and effort were an issue when migrating.

As startups come to treat the cloud as a prerequisite for success, so established organisations are going to have to update their approach to IT and embrace the cloud, rather than shying from it. Startups are going to outpace non-cloud customers and gain that critical efficiency advantage.

Additionally, customers and service users are going to notice a marked difference between the companies that are cloud-first, and the ones that are not. Delivering exceptional service means giving customers the service they expect.

The First Step

All over the world, we’re seeing a digital revolution take hold. In public organisations and private businesses, cloud computing is driving efficiency and positive change. A cloud-first approach is essential if your business is going to retain its lead over competitors, particularly as agile startups threaten your lead.

For more information about our cloud-first email services, file storage and online backup, don’t hesitate to give Cloud4 a call. We can provide a single service or a bespoke package, supporting your business as it takes its first steps towards successful migration.

Are You Spending Too Much on IT Hardware?

UK SMEs will spend £22.8 billion on technology this year. That’s according to GE’s Capital Investment Barometer. The largest category for investment is IT hardware, which will increase by 64 per cent. SMEs say that they spend this money to upgrade their IT and enhance productivity.

In the UK, small businesses spent £10m on IT hardware in Q1 of 2014. That’s a massive amount of money that could be diverted to marketing or another essential function of the business.

Is it really worth chasing the latest and greatest IT hardware when your employees already have their own equipment? For many businesses, spending on hardware is a waste of money.

Try Bring Your Own Device

Many businesses are encouraging staff to use their personal IT hardware in the office, and are setting up formal Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies to govern their use. Bringing your own device to work used to be seen as a security risk, but when it’s done under a formal policy, the practice offers a number of benefits.

When employees bring their own devices to work, they can use the operating system they prefer to use, so there’s less struggle to switch to an unfamiliar system, or find training for users that struggle.

Using a hosted desktop for business tasks, your Android-loving project manager can work alongside his or her Apple-loving colleagues, or move seamlessly from one machine to the next. By providing a hosted desktop for every user, you can provide them with the Windows applications they need, even if they’re working on a Mac. If they choose to bring an iPad to work, they can log on to their desktop from their own tablet, and it gives you the opportunity to combine hot desking and remote working.

There’s a clear cost benefit to letting people bring their own devices, in terms of reduced investment. The company doesn’t have to keep upgrading its own machines, nor does it need a pool of tablets and laptops for occasional use.

Balancing the Risk

A Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy is a sensible way to leverage the power of the cloud, save on hardware spend, and give employees increased choice.

While some companies are nervous about having third party devices on their networks, a robust policy can ensure that data is safeguarded without restricting the use of any device. That means:

– Encrypting mobile devices

– Blocking websites that could spread malicious code

– Educating users about the risks of public WiFi networks

– Ensuring every device is locked automatically when not in use

– Using two factor authentication to safeguard company data

– Defining reasonable use of a personal device on company time, and any activities that are prohibited, such as downloading torrents, using social media, or gaming

– Listing any operating systems that are not allowed (such as very old versions of Android, which may be targets for hacking)

– Having a policy that allows company technical staff to wipe the device if it’s lost

Of course, the company may also choose to contribute to the cost of the device, or the cost of services that employees use. However, this should be structured and organised, so that only permitted devices are used.

However you approach BYOD, the hosted desktop is the cog that makes every device work together. All you need to do is draw up the policy, and cut back on your hardware spend next year.