5 Ways Cloud Apps Help Smart SMBs Focus on Their Business, Not the Technology to Run Their Business
The cloud is everywhere, and has been for over two decades, yet many small businesses continue to run their businesses with in-house software. This is often time-consuming, expensive, and tedious to manage. Worse, these businesses miss out on the many advantages of cloud-based applications, such as the fact that they are continually updated without any need for IT staff to be involved.
Even worse, as cybercriminals expand their activities to SMBs, many lack the in-house IT security expertise to keep their business’ data and systems safe.
Apps aren’t just for playing music or finding workouts to do at home using your phone. Businesses of every size use cloud apps to run every aspect of their business -- marketing, sales, accounting, data backup, document capture, websites, storage, basically, nearly any app you can think of to run your business is available as a cloud service.
While saving your IT staff’s time and avoiding being hacked are two real benefits of moving to cloud-based apps, there are positive reasons too that always boil down to two:
• Save money -- apps are often less expensive to procure and manage
• Save time -- for IT staff managing tedious tasks, like data backup, and employees productivity because they can work from anywhere and a 24/7/365 cloud support staff is always on, keeping the software running, so you never have to wait for IT to get to the office to troubleshoot problem.
While 96% of enterprises use the cloud, only 78% of SMBs do, a study from Microsoft showed. This lag is partly attributed to two of the myths discussed below. The lag could also be because SMBs don’t understand the positive ROI implications of using the cloud. Nucleus Research identified an ROI of $16.97 for every $1 spent on Microsoft Dynamics 365. IT research company IDC interviewed nine SMBs using Google Cloud offerings about their results:
• 16% higher revenue per organization per year
• 19% higher developer productivity
• 26% lower IT infrastructure costs
ROI over three years for the companies was 222%.
What are you waiting for?
5 Ways Cloud Apps Allow You to Focus on Your Business
We could write a book about cloud benefits. We’ll limit ourselves to these five reasons to move to the cloud because they apply to every business regardless of that business’ size.
1. Remove the burden on your IT staff (or eliminate the need for an IT staff).
Depending on the size and complexity of your business, you can move entirely to a cloud-based model or used cloud apps to supplement your on-prem software. In either case, offloading apps that are essential but that don’t provide competitive advantage (such as data backup or network security, for example) free up your IT team’s time to focus on creating value for your business -- not scrambling to keep the lights on.
Every hour spent managing your network or ensuring the data backup is running smoothly is an hour less your IT team is focused on improving your business processes. Let’s say your IT team spends 20 hours per week patching and updating software. Patching isn’t a simple download. IT has to check that the patch works and then ensure that the patch doesn’t break connections with other software in your IT stack. That’s 20 hours away from planning for the future or other work that gives you a competitive advantage.
IT staff are both expensive and good IT professionals are in high demand. Reducing reliance on an in-house staff frees budget for investment in other areas, such as sales and marketing, while allowing you to focus on keeping your high performing IT staff happy and not looking elsewhere.
One last point about IT staffing, there’s a global shortage of cybersecurity expertise. That means even if you are lucky enough to have IT staff with in-depth IT security knowledge, it’s going to be hard to keep them. They have options.
Cloud IT can be provisioned and operational in minutes for something simple like online storage to a few days for more complex business challenges (and longer if integration between cloud and on-prem software needs to happen). The cloud brings the ability to have the same software as a Fortune 1000 company.
And you can pivot on a dime. If you need extra storage or processing speed for only certain months of the year, maybe you do a lot of online sales during the Holiday Season, you can provision extra capacity during those peak times and not during the rest of the year, saving you money.
Most businesses also budget for cloud apps from their operating expenses rather than capital budget.
3. Ability to work from anywhere with an Internet connection.
As COVID-19 continues to sweep through the country, the ability to have access to the software and your data so your business can stay in operation is crucial. With cloud apps, if you can connect to the Internet,
you’re in business.
You aren’t paranoid when they’re really out to get you. And cybercriminals are equal opportunity thieves. So far in 2020, the U.S. saw a 109% rise in ransomware. While the bigger companies receive the headlines, small companies are targeted too. Here’s one story about an SMB paying $150,000 in bitcoin to regain control of their data.
Lazy cybercriminals also use cloud apps. On the dark web (yes, it’s a real thing), cybercriminals can access ransomware-as-a-service. Ransomware locks your data down until you pay a ransom for it. Sometimes they ask for another ransom, sometimes you might even get your databack.
One of the simplest and most commonly overlooked advantages of cloud apps is access to regular backups of your data. In fact, one cloud service is simply data backup. It’s a simple, cost-effective way to keep from falling victim to cybercriminals. Depending on the frequency of your backup, you might lose some data, but you’ll be able to return to business much faster and not have to pay these criminals off. With a more comprehensive cloud infrastructure, data backup is something you no longer have to worry about (as a business owner) or spend time doing (as IT staff).
5. Ease of use
A common feature of nearly every cloud app is ease-of-use. Just remember that because they are simple to use for end users, doesn’t mean that management is that simple (more below).
Two Lingering Cloud Myths
Even though businesses have been using the cloud safely and secure for over two decades now, a lingering perception exists that on-premises solutions are more secure and that compliance and the cloud are mutually exclusive.
Both beliefs are wrong.
Let’s start with the myth that the cloud is insecure. Every cloud provider encrypts data, often both at rest and during transmission. Cloud providers have secure audit trails to track who accesses the system and when. Don’t forget physical security either. Are your office servers secured behind a locked door? Or are they, like many small businesses, tucked in the corner of a small storage room where staff have easy access too?
1. It's insecure. Cloud providers maintain stringent access controls to both their online offerings and the physical environment (reduced to the essentials of infrastructure, “the cloud” is a bunch of servers somewhere running apps and connected to the Internet). This physical infrastructure is under lock and key, entry is limited to qualified staff, and off-site backups ensure the ability to operate in the event of disaster. Apps can be secured with robust passwords, two-factor authentication, encryption of data, firewalls, etc.
2. Compliance issues (for healthcare companies, for instance). Compliance with your industry-specific regulations aren’t optional, but they shouldn’t prevent you from using cloud apps. For instance, the healthcare industry must comply with HIPAA for PHI (protected health information). Many cloud providers offer HIPAA-compliant services and guidance has been provided by the Federal Government (HIPAA & Cloud Computing Guidance).
Cloud Apps Still Need to Be Managed
One last myth about the cloud needs to be debunked -- it’s easy to manage. The cloud isn't some mythological place of unicorns and rainbows where everything is easy. Cloud apps must be managed like any other business software investment.
Just because you can provision a business solution and have it running in an hour or a few days doesn’t mean that you should. You still need to choose the right cloud app to support your business processes. While it’s faster than provisioning on-prem software, you still need to identify your business requirements and match your needs to the right app. Ignoring that step is a recipe for ineffective processes and wasted budget.
If you have an on-premise IT stack that needs to connect to your cloud apps, those connections need to be managed. Hidden behind the simplicity of using cloud apps is a world of complexity, that's where you need expert help.
Start Your Cloud Business Transformation -- For Free -- With Zion
Small businesses don’t have the time or money to waste on products and services that “might” work. At Zion, we’ve eliminated the risk of beginning your cloud journey. Our CloudEntry platform will help you get started using the cloud on your way to digitally transforming your business. We will provide you a free evaluation and consultation on migrating to the cloud. Should you decide to move forward with us, Zion Cloud Solutions provides free migration of your desktop and application infrastructure to the cloud and a free three months of application infrastructure support along with a $5,000 credit to Amazon AWS/Azure monthly billing (we build using storage and compute resources of these major providers of cloud infrastructure).