'
BUILD WHAT'S NEXT | A ZDNet Multiplexer Blog What's this?

Why your small business should move to the cloud

Cloud has become the new normal in enterprise IT, but going on-demand isn't just for major companies. We summarise three ways CIOs have benefited from the cloud (migrate, re-platform, modernise) - and how you can apply those plus-points in your own business.

Going on-demand isn't just for large companies anymore. Just as they can benefit from the cloud, so smaller firms can also use the resources it provisions to boost their operational efficiency.

Despite the promise of the cloud, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) says less than half (40 percent) of smaller businesses in the UK use cloud services. Failing to embrace the cloud can potentially mean missed benefits. The FSB says using the cloud leads to an increase of 13.5 percent in sales per employee at smaller firms after three or more years.

CIOs in major organisations have already seen some of these productivity boons. They have benefited from the cloud in three key ways: migrate, re-platform, modernise. Now, small business owners can also apply those plus-points in their own businesses - and here's how.

Migrate

Businesses collect more data than ever before, with estimates suggesting 90 percent of the data in the world was generated during the past two years. However, rather than making use of that information, many businesses are drowning in data. Too much data is still hidden away in stove pipes and connected to unwieldy applications. Firms that embrace migration change this status quo, moving data and applications from on-site platforms and onto the cloud.

Migrating to a modern, cloud-based platform means firms can do more with their applications and data. Take cosmetics retailer Lush, which migrated its global e-commerce site to the cloud in just 22 days. The firm significantly improved the reliability and stability of its site. More importantly, Lush created an agile platform for future innovation, particularly around data warehousing and the smart use of big data.

A similar strategy can be applied at smaller firms, too. There is likely to be considerably high demand for cloud migration from SMBs through 2025, according to Transparency Market Research. By migrating to the cloud, your organisation can avoid losing a competitive advantage and create an agile platform for business growth.

Re-platform

Your existing applications might be working well, but the current business environment is no indicator of future success. Take the example of CIOs in the finance industry. While big banks face disruption from agile challenger institutions, some experts believe the bigger threat is a reliance on legacy technology. Some experts suggest banks typically spend as much as 80% of their IT budgets on legacy technology maintenance.

Cloud offers a means to break this bind, with some estimates suggesting banks can cut IT costs by up to three quarters by re-platforming. By moving to the cloud, HSBC has been able to keep pace with massive computing demands, while running innovative schemes to key areas, such as anti-money laundering, risk analytics and reporting.

Remember that digital transformation is a continual work in progress. Just as the impact of one technology is realised, another swathe of emerging systems - like AI, virtual reality and blockchain - begin to emerge. Re-platforming to the right cloud platform means your business creates an open approach to change and can prepare itself for constant transformation.

Modernise

London Heathrow Airport is one organisation that wanted to be ready for change. The airport was eager to launch a user-friendly mobile app to offer real-time information on flights, baggage and retail locations. Heathrow worked with external cloud specialists to develop its Heathrow Airport Guide.

The app, which is available for iPhone, Android, and Blackberry devices, has been running since 2011 with only minor optimisations or adjustments. The app processes 2,000 real-time flight schedule updates per second. Using the cloud enables the development team to focus 90 percent on front-end customer experience and just 10 percent on back-end development.

By spending less time on current systems, all organisations - including smaller firms - can spend more time on innovative digital services. The cloud can help SMBs to modernise in a host of key areas. The FSB, for example, highlights the importance of digital technology across accounting, e-commerce and customer relationship management.

Conclusion - embracing the future with confidence

Running systems on isolated and unconnected in-house servers represents yesterday's world. An ever-increasing number of CIOs across all sectors recognise the cloud provides a platform to migrate, re-platform and modernise. By embracing the cloud now, your smaller business can create a flexible platform for future change.