If you’re a business owner looking to push your firm to the next level, you’re probably thinking about the best steps you can take. For a small business, enhancing your firm’s use of cloud-based IT is probably one of the best things you can do. Here’s our guide to the things every business owner should know about cloud software.
What is cloud software?
Most of us already use some form of cloud computing, from listening to music (e.g. Spotify), to watching films (via Netflix) or sharing photographs. In a nutshell, cloud computing is simply the storing and accessing of files via the internet. More technically, cloud computing is the use of a network of remote servers hosted on the internet rather than the use of a local server or personal computer to store, manage and use your files and data. It’s like using another company’s software and storage space instead of having to purchase and maintain your own.
The benefits of cloud software
There is a huge variety of cloud software available covering all kinds of business functions – from accounts, payroll, and marketing to sales, invoicing and HR workforce management. They are designed to save firms time and money by reducing the need to create, complete and maintain their own functions locally. Typically, you subscribe to your chosen provider – often a ‘software-as-a-service’ (SaaS) application.
In fact, cloud software is becoming so popular that industry experts are predicting 2019 will herald an important tipping point: it’s forecast that in 2019 spending on software and IT services will both overtake hardware.
Recognising cloud computing as a major vehicle for firms to remain competitive, the UK government has made large investments in cloud data centres to “help UK firms to work smarter and faster.” (UK Digital Strategy 2017)
5 things every SME business should consider
It’s easy to see the possibilities which cloud computing opens up.
Before you take the leap, here are 5 things every business owner should consider:
- Back up your data – before you migrate your valuable business data to the cloud from your existing systems, it’s important to duplicate your data just in case any is lost during the transfer process. Once you’ve tested your new cloud software and are happy with the transfer of content, you can choose to delete the duplicate files.
- It should be scalable – one of the major advantages of cloud software for SMEs is that it can be easily adapted for additional numbers of employees. Hard-pressed SMEs don’t want to be locked into a rigid deal. Look for a flexible monthly or annual subscription which allows firms to scale up, when growing, or down, particularly if your business has seasonal peaks and troughs. For example, good cloud-based time and attendance systems offer a variety of pricing plans with no tie-in period or contract.
- Make sure the software is mobile-friendly – today’s mobile and flexible workforce is driving the demand for ever greater and more convenient connectivity. Cloud computing can empower managers and staff alike so make sure that your chosen cloud software is accessible 24/7 and from any location. This means you should be able to access it from a variety of devices including the one that’s with you most often, your mobile phone.
- Check the security of your data – while there are some potential security risks of having your data ‘in the cloud’, the cloud can actually offer a more secure environment than data held on local PCs in physical locations. Local PCs and devices are not always maintained with the latest security upgrades, leaving data at risk of cybercrime, theft or loss, for example, through fire. Ensure that you examine your providers’ security policies – the newly-adopted General Data Protection Regulation should increase transparency and compliance.
- Consider integration with your existing systems – some firms may wish to run a hybrid system, at least for a period. Many established businesses will also want to continue to access previous files and data. Consider with your provider how your cloud migration can be achieved without loss of data and retaining access to existing data.
There are plenty of good reasons why so many SMEs are choosing cloud computing. It is perfect for start-ups to get off the ground while levelling the playing field for SMEs to compete with larger businesses.
For example, smaller firms often don’t have the same capacity for workforce management – this means that tasks such as tracking staff hours, monitoring absences and scheduling annual leave can be more of a burden.
Don’t just take our word for it.
“Simple and not overcomplicated, other systems required investment in networking, servers and training staff to use them, we just don’t need any of that – it’s cloud-based and plug and play.” uAttend customer Sunfresh Produce