Tom Kelly| Guardian
Of all the developments in information communication technology (ICT) over the past decade, cloud computing has been one of the key gamechangers, offering far-reaching benefits for businesses. With new innovations in technology emerging on an almost daily basis, cloud is one ICT solution that can add value to all businesses, from homegrown micro businesses to multinational corporations.
Notably, the sector of the business community ideally positioned for transformation by the cloud isn’t one that traditionally reaps the rewards of developments in cyberspace: small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Although SMEs – the backbone of the UK economy, accounting for 99.9% of all private-sector businesses since the start of 2012 – might not traditionally have required complex IT solutions, they stand to benefit substantially from cloud computing. Research published this week by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) demonstrates that investment in technology is a driver for innovation for small businesses. Yet the research found that only a quarter of small firms are actually investing in technology such as cloud computing, despite the fact that using this service can be a powerful way for them to access a global customer base and make their mark on the international stage.
SMEs that are embracing technology have the ability to grow faster, export more and employ more people. And cloud technology offers SMEs in the UK the opportunity to compete internationally like never before and drive their homegrown intellectual property.
As well as the cloud opening up new opportunities for e-commerce, it is also associated with significant cost benefits. A recent European Commission report found that the adoption of cloud computing could result in 80% of organisations reducing their costs by about 10–20%.
Taking a product or service to a world audience no longer requires extra resources or overseas offices; the cloud is levelling the playing field and enabling businesses to make inroads into lucrative new markets. A business in rural Wales could be developing an innovative application at the same time as one in China and, through the cloud, both businesses have an immediate virtual shop window to place their product before global buyers.
For example, one SME in Wales, Wolfestone Translation, largely attributes its significant growth over the past three years to its investment in a bespoke private cloud that allows its translators, proofreaders and clients to log in and track the progress of a project at any time, from anywhere in the world.
It’s not just established businesses that are benefiting. The online gifting startup Timto recently migrated to a cloud-based server to enable it to interact more efficiently with a network of partner charities and retailers across the UK, significantly up-scaling its current operations based at the Welsh Innovation Centre for Enterprise.
There are many more companies streamlining their services and achieving growth in this way, but the challenge is to make sure that all businesses are aware of the transformational potential of cloud.
Ensuring SMEs are equipped with the know-how to stay ahead of the game is key, and the wider business and digital community must work to encourage and support the adoption of technologies like the cloud among SMEs. Our place in the global economy could just depend on it.