INSIGHT

Get your head in the cloud and compete with the big players

These days, nearly all businesses use the cloud in some way, even without realising it. It’s a great leveller, and if you get your head in the game you may find you’re able to compete with much larger businesses.  

These days, nearly all businesses use the cloud in some way, even without realising it. It’s a great leveller, and if you get your head in the game you may find you’re able to compete with much larger businesses.  

These days, nearly all businesses use the cloud in some way, even without realising it. It’s a great leveller, and if you get your head in the game you may find you’re able to compete with much larger businesses.  

These days, nearly all businesses operate in the cloud even if they don’t realise it. Some may just be using a Hotmail or Gmail address, whereas others may have actively invested in cloud services.

We caught up with three small businesses that have shifted operations to the cloud to find out how much each company had grown since making the change.

We spoke to Simon Douglass, founder of Curated Digital, a digital marketing company, Nicole Barrett, director of Vegas Mattresses and Chris Witham, creative services director at LucidSynergy, graphic design and website creation specialist.

These three businesses rely hugely on cloud services, and between them use the following, among many others: Google G Suite, WeTransfer, Hootsuite, DropBox, Adobe Suite, Skype, Paypal, FreeAgent, Tresorit, Apple iCloud and Evernote.

“Cloud can mean many things, but for small businesses, software as a service (applications like Office 365, Dropbox or Fsecure) provides real advantages,” explained Stephen Wind-Mozley, director of digital at Virgin Media Business.

“Businesses can access high quality software on demand, whilst avoiding the cost and hassle of having to manage complex IT stacks.  This frees them up to focus on growing their business, not their IT support overhead.”

Relying on the cloud

A running theme for these businesses is being able to work collaboratively over the internet. For example, Douglass explained that at Curated Digital the team is working with a large amount of copy that needs be shared in an accessible central location without eating up storage.

“The ability to work collaboratively on shared docs in G-Suite has a substantial impact on how efficient we’re able to be, especially when collaborating with clients. If we lost our internet supply, we’d lose the business.”

Barrett agreed that the same is true for CBS Services: “Internet supply is crucial to our operation. We are a small team and to be successful we need to be able to work with one another in a shared office environment.

“Internet access provides us with cloud based tools and without these tools we are just a tiny business that cannot reach its customers. A lack of internet access would result in us being unable to compete within the market place.”

Regardless of the extent to which a business has adopted cloud services, to access the cloud at all a decent broadband connection is required – there’s no use in signing up to lots of intuitive services if you can’t access them.

Advice for other small businesses

When it comes to recommending cloud services, Barrett doesn’t hesitate.

“It is the best move we could have made and definitely something we continue to improve upon,” she said.

However, Witham cautioned that the types of cloud services your business would benefit from are very individual, and what works for some may not for others. “You would need to weigh up the time/cost benefit of setting systems up to really know if it was worth moving to a cloud-based workflow,” he said.

All three business owners were agreed that adopting cloud services shouldn’t be taken for a silver bullet to magically transform a business. Before taking on any new service, you should always do your homework. It may also be worth looking for free trials before committing.

“Be clear as to what you want and how you want to use the services, so you can ask the right questions of your service provider or chosen vendor,” said Wind-Mozley.

“Be aware that the more you use cloud apps, the more upload and download speed and bandwidth you will need. In fact, upload speed and capacity will start to become as important as download speed because you’ll be transmitting more data in both directions.”

Ultimately, cloud services can do a lot to improve the productivity of your business. They can help you get organised, improve productivity and provide greater access to data – but it is important to remember that you need a dependable internet connection to be able to utilise the cloud.

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