Using the cloud to reduce your costs
Recent improvements over the last few years in technology capabilities mean that small and medium sized firms providing professional services in sectors such as legal, accounting, architectural and engineering may now experience significant cost-saving benefits in being able to use and manage digital services on an as-needs basis.
Part 1: Why traditional computing cost models are being challenged
Most modern businesses are fully aware of the importance of investment in information and communications technology, and giving employees the tools they need to maximise productivity.
In this digital age, an ever-greater number of functions are being automated, removing the burden of manual work from many employees. This allows them to focus on other value-adding tasks, helping to boost overall organisational and client value.
Part 2: Information Technology services
Twenty years ago, businesses managed all their information technology assets on site, using in-house servers and computer rooms. With the advent of the Internet, businesses can now manage this online.
So what does this mean for you?
- More for less
The speed and capacity of computing hardware is continually improving. This means there will always be newer, better services available for your business. For example, huge amounts of data storage are now affordable and accessible.
- Greater reach
The widespread availability and use of mobile computing devices such as smartphones and tablets have changed the way people use software applications, with usage supported from almost any geographical location.
- Specialist providers
Most businesses are taking advantage of high-speed broadband and other advanced connectivity solutions. This allows businesses to source IT services online by third-party specialist providers anywhere in the world.
- Added resources
The development of IT services mean that many jobs once done by hand are now being automated. For employees, it allows them to focus on other value-adding tasks, which can be more beneficial to both your business and customers.
- Money in the bank
Storing and managing data can be a big expense to small business, especially when handling large amounts of sensitive client information. Cloud-computing, which provides access to IT services directly over the Internet, means businesses of all sizes can reduce the amount spent on hardware, software and associated infrastructure.
People can work on the same document at the same time, providing quicker speed to market and quicker communications. It can also bring about easier communication with suppliers and third parties to your business by sharing collaborative documents and folders.
Popular cloud services include:
- Office 365 and Google Drive, to help with office productivity
- Salesforce, for customer relationship management
- Dropbox, for file sharing
- Asana, Trello, Basecamp, Sharepoint, Slack, Yammer for online collaboration and progress tracking.
- Amazon Glacier, for data storage
- Cotap for quick mobile messaging.
Other lesser known services include enterprise resource planning, analytics, business continuity, and security. Even widely used web services such as web search, social media and email can be seen as forms of cloud computing.
Teleworking or working remotely is a massive part of our business. It allows us to engage with the clients. And it allows us to be really available to our clients not just when we are sitting at a fixed location. You never have to say to a client, when I get back to my desk I
will answer that question because you are always available.
Part 3: Moving your applications to the cloud
Developing on-site infrastructure for ICT can be expensive. There’s the purchase of the servers, PCs, software and storage devices, as well as significant investment to manage and maintain it.
If you embrace cloud computing, and outsource some of your ICT to a hosted service provider, you won’t face the same start-up or maintenance costs.
Rather than buying technology and product licences outright, businesses that use cloud computing can do so on a subscription basis. This means they simply ‘pay as they go’.
Benefits of cloud computing
Your cloud computing services provider may, in fact, host hundreds of thousands of different companies and organisations, all managed through a central data warehouse. This means they may have the funds behind them to continually improve their services and products. And because of tough competition in this market, cloud firms are increasingly trying to deliver innovative solutions at more affordable prices.
Another positive is that cloud computing is flexible and scalable. During busy periods, for example, you can rapidly grow your computing capacity. In quieter times, you can just as quickly shrink it back. Or, if you’re starting up a website, you can test its impact and close it down, all in a matter of days.
Smaller businesses have the most to gain. They no longer have to stretch their budgets developing IT infrastructure. Instead, they can subscribe for advanced IT services – something that would previously be beyond their means – and access them from a cloud computing provider under a user-pays agreement.
Part 4: Data sensitivity and customer privacy
Where does your data live?
Some cloud computing services host data locally, in Australia. For others, data lives in warehouses offshore, like the United States or Singapore. As a small business, you may look to offshore sites because they’re generally much cheaper, while also being professional, reliable and secure.
Offshore data may be available to the government of the area where your warehouse resides. If you feel your customers won’t be comfortable with data about their business being held offshore, you may need to find a cloud supplier that guarantees data residency in Australia.
The Australian Government can also access data stored in warehouses here, under certain circumstances. View this fact sheet for more information about cloud use in Australia and privacy.
If you’re thinking of moving your applications to the cloud, check out these resources first. All information was current at the time of writing. When you go to any of the links below, you will be leaving the DBK site.
Digitalbusiness.gov.au – A guide for small business, including information about cloud computing myths, security information, and legal tips.
Products.office.com/en-au/business/office – Office 365
Google.com/drive – Google Drive
Salesforce.com/au – Salesforce
Dropbox.com – Dropbox
Aws.amazon.com/glacier – Amazon Glacier