In our increasingly globalised world, small businesses need an effective communications network to span any geographically dispersed parts. But the business applications required to achieve this are an expensive proposition in the current economic climate.
It is perceived as becoming increasingly difficult for small businesses to compete with large corporations that have seemingly infinite budgets. But we are seeing the emergence of multi-tenanted business applications based on a price-per-user model, hosted on the public cloud. This is allowing small businesses to increasingly source, afford and enjoy enterprise-level services, security and products, because it can be supplied to the end user at a fraction of the cost.
Now is the time for smaller customers to start thinking big - and the channel can help them use communications to get there. With cloud computing, instead of running desktops, applications, Exchange or voice through physical in-house servers, they can be hosted on centralised virtual servers in someone else’s datacentre.
This process can be near instantaneous to set up and relatively effortless to use. The customer just has to log in, customise and begin. Applications can be more scalable, more secure and more reliable as the end user customer does not need a copy of an app for every department using it. Just one copy can be flexible enough for everyone to customise for their own needs.
Users can instantly provision applications whenever they are needed, directly controlling the resources they require. This allows companies striving to increase their pace and dynamism to deploy highly resilient virtual machines. A new era of flexibility is dawning.
Managers are starting to recognise a change now that staff can be networked more cost-effectively, no matter where they are in the world. Employees, too, can benefit from increased mobility, obtaining access to their individual desktop user profile from any device - laptop, thin client or tablet.
This makes it easy to connect people and offices as one cohesive, responsive unit where users can share and synchronise emails, diaries and files. Small businesses can hire home-based workers, open small branch offices, or more effectively link up employees on their mobiles to deliver seamless customer service as easily as a large corporation can.
Cloud computing can also boost employee productivity and innovation by providing access to the latest technology. This can be achieved without the need for any investment in upgrades. Small businesses get world-class IT on a global scale for a limited spend.
IT professionals have raised some concerns about the security of data in the public cloud. But since all data and applications are centralised in a datacentre, it is easier to enable and enforce processes and procedures to ensure security, privacy and other best practices.
No data need be stored on a device. Customers need not worry about locally stored data falling into the wrong hands or being lost if a mobile device itself goes missing or breaks. This is especially significant with gigabytes of sensitive corporate data potentially sitting on the desk of every employee with a focus on on-premise storage. But many executives still hesitate over cloud issues.
Many seem to worry that they would no longer be able to touch and feel the systems which drive their business. Yet I feel there has been sufficient experience of remote working already to allay those fears. Remote datacentres have been on the scene for decades.
Cloud hosting is simply a logical extension of the concept. And there has been little evidence of companies experiencing problems with access to data with comprehensive service-level agreements that specify virtually continuous availability. So any remaining concerns should be set aside.
Most businesses have fewer than 100 employees, and they like it that way. They value their agility and close customer interaction. The competitiveness of an organisation is now less dependent on its size than ever before. By making effective use of today’s communications capabilities, small businesses can compete against anyone of any size, any time and anywhere. If you think it, you can do it.
With the development of cloud technology and the applications and solutions available to small businesses, the sky really is the limit.
Jack Wilson is digital marketing manager at Commensus
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