From technical concerns to cultural complexities, we summarise the main challenges that your business might encounter as it moves to the cloud - and how to overcome them and make the most of the cloud.
With limited human resources, your small business might lack technical expertise. Research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) suggests that is a common concern. More than a quarter (26%) of small business owners in England lack confidence in their basic digital skills and more than a fifth (22%) believe this skills gap is holding their business back.
Bringing the cloud into such an immature environment might seem concerning. But using an external service provider brings strong advantages. Cloud providers are experts in technology provision, unlike most small businesses. With a committed cloud partner in place, your business can assess its options and ensure technology is scaled up and down as demands change. Rather than creating technical complexity, going serverless boosts flexibility.
Security is one of the most commonly cited constraints that prevent small firms from embracing on-demand computing. Analyst Gartner says concerns about security have led some IT leaders to prevent their organisations moving to the cloud. But here's the rub: cloud providers take the strain, so your business doesn't have to.
Your small business is unlikely to hold IT skills as a core competency. In comparison, the big external providers dedicate huge resources - in terms of both technology and manpower - to keeping your data backed up and secure. What's more, as updates take place automatically over the network, you can always be sure your cloud-based systems are up to date.
Small businesses do not have big IT budgets. Money that you spend on technology is at a premium, so the thought of moving into a hyped area of technology - like the cloud - might be off-putting. However, cloud computing is a cost-effective way for your business to take a much tighter grip on its technology spending.
The cloud runs on-demand, so services are charged depending on what your business uses. Rather than having spare hardware capacity sit idly in your headquarters, your firm can scale its resources up and down as requirements change. That means your firm can also test out new software opportunities, too. CompTIA's 2018 cloud research reports many SMBs are now using software-as-a-service options that were previously too costly to maintain in house.
When you keep things in house, your business should have a strong awareness of the systems and services it runs. Small business owners can be concerned that a move to the cloud could lead to a growing reliance on a much broader ecosystem of providers. Estimates suggest large enterprises can rely on more than 1,000 distinct cloud services.
However, this widening ecosystem brings advantages. Your business becomes less reliant on a single provider. By moving to the cloud, your firm can take advantage of new, pioneering services that become available on demand. Even more crucially, by working with a partner that supports openness, you can use the cloud as a platform to support interoperability and integration between services, something that might have been unachievable before.
Change management is always a consideration when migrating to a new technology, and cloud is no different. Automatic updates, document saves and a single version of the truth replace a legacy mode of operation, where workers save documents in individual stores, perhaps even just locally to their hard drives. Breaking from this legacy way of working will be a significant task, but small business owners must meet this challenge head on.
Moving to the cloud represents a new cultural approach - and it is one that brings multiple benefits. Take collaboration, where workers can work on a single document and always track and trace changes. There's a security bonus here, too. With a single version of the truth, workers can be certain that their work is always backed up and earlier versions can be retrieved on demand.
Going serverless is a significant undertaking, but against every challenge rest a significant set of benefits. Small businesses that embrace these challenges will start to develop an open, interoperable and flexible platform for future growth.
FSB skills research:
Gartner cloud research:
Estimates on average number of cloud services: