Top trends in cloud computing for SMEs
Following Gartner’s recent report on what it sees as the five key trends that will shape cloud computing strategies between now and 2015, here is my perspective on the impact cloud computing will have on an SME audience.
Gartner’s trends tend to focus on the larger organisations, typically 5000 seats and above, yet in the UK 99% of businesses are sub-250 employees and will have different requirements, benefits and considerations when looking to utilise a cloud platform.
Many customers are still confused about what the ‘cloud’ is and what all the hype and terminology means to them in real terms.
Having spent a great deal of time in discussions with such customers at events and meetings, I continue to find a lack of understanding and clarity past the surface level of the cloud being internet based.
Most cannot explain SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, private and public clouds, yet know where they might be utilised to benefit their business and its success. For the average smaller business the expectations and advice needed around cloud are very different to those of the enterprise customer.
The top five cloud developments for these companies will be:
- Simplification of cloud services in terms of package and pricing to the mass market customer.
- Standards and bodies will continue to grow in importance, providing customers a reference point to assist in their understanding and safe adoption of cloud platforms.
- Increase in cloud aggregation resellers, cloud specialists who will assist the smaller business with advice, support and even run their cloud IT for them.
- More education – both in terms of certification and training available – to fulfil a growing requirement for cloud education and information.
- New cloud applications will appear without the brand name that smaller companies will find more affordable and palatable to adopt, having no corporate standards to overcome and less re-training costs or risks of an enterprise customer making the same change.
Cloud brings great benefit to the average size business, allowing the smaller business owner more choice and the ability to afford solutions that previously were only within the budgets of larger enterprise clients.
Cloud platforms and services will also afford many smaller companies to compete more effectively with larger competitors and to enjoy growth against larger legacy competitors who are not nimble enough to change systems and approaches to benefit from today’s more effective and flexible cloud platforms.
To get the most out of the cloud, companies must perform diligence as they would when buying any other solution, asking the right questions and understanding and interpreting the answers to make an informed decision.
10 key questions to ask before signing up with a cloud service provider:
- What are the terms and conditions in the service level agreement (SLA)?
- Are there penalties if a supplier fails to deliver and what are they?
- Where is your data in the system stored? Is it in the UK, Europe, or the US?
- Where is my failover data stored, if a primary system in my locale fails is my data stored in any other jurisdiction?
- Who has access to my data?
- What has the provider’s success rate been in the past?
- Can they provide customer testimonials of similar size and scenario to yourself? Can you speak to these customers directly?
- Who is going to support the services? Will it be their own staff or a third party?
- Do they provide out of hours support? If so, what kind of support do you get?
- How easily can I extract my data if I want to leave the service and in what format?