It's one of life's indisputable facts that sustained growth is a sign of health and vitality. Whether it's for businesses, social groups, or even the human body, growth is a key indicator that all is going to plan. But what happens when this growth is stunted? In bodily terms, growth can be impacted by a lack of sleep, exercise, vitamins and minerals. However, what's less accepted is that for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as well the economy as a whole, a restriction in innovation can have the same negative effect.
Today in the UK, there are more than 4.5million SMEs1, making up 99 per cent of all organisations and almost 60 per cent of the private sector workforce. What's certain is that if Chancellor George Osborne is to deliver on his promise and lead the UK out of the economic dark ages once and for all, then this recovery will be stimulated by sustained growth in the nation's SMEs. In order to achieve this, it's vital that these businesses are able to embrace and understand new, more innovative services, such as Cloud Computing, and the value that they can provide.
Of course, SMEs are far from a tried and tested market for what many perceive as complex IT solutions of this type. It's clear that a number of organisations of this size have shied away from embracing the Cloud, despite the fact that many Cloud solutions are developed with SMEs in mind. One possible explanation for this is that businesses of this size often have fewer resources available to them, which makes the risk of investment much higher. Despite this, there's no doubt that there are a number of far-reaching benefits that Cloud can offer.
Although some SMEs are put off by what they see as an unnecessary cost and complexity of use, the truth is that SMEs who embrace Cloud technology have the ability to grow faster, work more effectively and employ more people. What's more, Cloud services can also allow SMEs in this country to access new industries and enable them to compete at an international level like never before.
The question that many SMEs are asking, however, is what kind of Cloud solution works best for them? Cloud adoption can seem like a confusing, and at times, complicated process to the uninitiated, so it's a good idea to survey which options are available. The first thing to say is that Cloud has nothing to do with the meteorological definition of a visible mass of liquid droplets made of water or various chemicals suspended in the atmosphere. Although this may seem like an obvious point to make, research recently carried out by BSO revealed, believe it or not, that as many as 29 per cent of all Americans thought that this was where Cloud data was actually stored, so it's worth emphasising the point!
There are two principle types of Cloud solutions; Public and Private. Of the two, the former is much less widely used amongst enterprises, with BSO's research demonstrating that only 27 per cent of enterprises in Europe currently use a Public Cloud Computing model. Put simply, Public Cloud solutions are multi-tenant, and although it ensures that data is stored separately, this means that several enterprises share the same version of an application at any given time. Private Cloud solutions, on the other hand are by far the most popular, and are used by 73 per cent of European enterprises that embrace Cloud solutions. In this case, Private Cloud users have the necessary infrastructure built internally within their organisation. This means that the infrastructure is rented from an external provider and dedicated to a single customer.
There are a number of reasons why SMEs are, increasingly, turning towards Private Cloud Solutions. Not only does it allow them to lower costs, but it also enables them to increase their agility, and optimise their infrastructure and applications according to their own business need, rather than depending on a shared application. Crucially, it can also allow CIOs within the organisation to retain control, and adjust the solution where necessary, to allow it to add greater value. What this means is that SMEs see their investment in infrastructure, applications and information protected, while giving them the certainty of ensuring that these resources are being used effectively.
The primary benefit of all of this, of course, is that embracing these solutions can open doors and allow organisations of this size to grow in ways that would previously have not otherwise have been possible. If this level of growth can be driven across the board for UK SMEs, then it's clearly a significant opportunity to jump-start the economy and lead the UK into brighter economic times. When given the option between stunting economic growth on both a micro and a macro level, and embracing innovation to encourage the green shoots of recovery, I know which one I'd prefer!
1. [Guardian, 31/10/2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/sustainable-business/blog/first-steps-sme-sustainability-campaign]↩