9 Ways the Future of Your Small Business is the Cloud

If we look back, legacy software and bulky infrastructure historically made it difficult for small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) to embrace innovation. These problems came to a head during the pandemic as companies scrambled to give employees access to business-critical tools.

Although a piecemeal approach helped many organizations survive 2020, leaders must turn temporary changes into long-term strategies. Surviving isn’t enough to attract top talent and digital-first customers anymore. Instead, companies can thrive and achieve optimal competitiveness in the new economy, by transitioning work to the cloud.

Cloud-based activities drive positive employee and customer experiences. Moreover, the right solutions improve accessibility and support flexible work while helping your company scale quickly.

Cloud-Driven Efforts Drive Small Business Success

Cloud-based technologies, such as software as a service (SaaS), cloud backup, desktop as a service (DaaS), cloud security, and cloud storage, provide the foundation required to run your business from anywhere. For small companies trying to compete with large enterprises, cloud tools can reduce inefficiencies and expenditures while helping employees deliver excellent experiences.

DigitalOcean’s Currents seasonal survey of SMBs finds that 39% of leaders say cloud spending is “their number one priority, while 84% rank it in their top three.” Although moving work to the cloud offers many benefits, each reason revolves around three key concepts:

  • Accessibility: The cloud keeps workers and clients connected, giving them access to the correct information, where and when they need it
  • Scalability: Without the high costs of capital improvements, companies can embrace innovation and drive revenue with fewer risks
  • Flexibility: The cloud supports inclusive workspaces where employees and leaders can collaborate from any internet-connected device

Cloud Migration: 9 Ways It’s the Future of Business

Moving to the cloud isn’t about replacing existing applications or revolutionalizing workflows. Instead, investments in cloud technologies enhance security, productivity, and efficiency. Additionally, the cloud supports your teams and clients with more seamless workflows and interactions, allowing your company to stay agile and adjust to new behaviors without considerable changes to your infrastructure.

Although Microsoft’s Work Trend Index finds, “73% of employees want flexible work options to stay,” workers are also anxious to get back to in-person collaboration sessions. The cloud supports hybrid work models, allowing your company to meet diverse needs without sacrificing a human-first approach.

As small businesses explore new ways of working together, many leaders base cloud investment decisions on the following nine reasons.

1. Improve Accessibility for Employees, Leaders, and Clients

During the pandemic, accessibility became a breaking point for many small business owners. Employees couldn’t access proprietary software from home, leading to communication breakdowns, and in some cases, poor customer experiences.

Moving processes to the cloud make applications and data accessible to teams and leaders, no matter where they are. Furthermore, cloud-based tools support employees and customers with differing abilities, allowing anyone to access tools and services with fewer barriers. Accessibility is critical to inclusive company cultures, and cloud computing helps achieve high-level business goals. According to SCORE, increasing accessibility:

  • Helps retain qualified workers
  • Increases business productivity
  • Builds company morale
  • Boosts profits

2. Flexibility Is the New Model of Work

The desire for flexible work options won’t go away just because people get vaccinated, or the threat of COVID-19 subsides. According to the 2021 Job Seeker Nation Report, only 24% of job candidates “Prefer to be in the office 100% of the time.”

With cloud-based tools, employers can adopt a fully remote or hybrid work model that provides the flexibility employees crave. Additionally, the cloud supports flexible work in the office. Teams can meet in huddle spaces, conference rooms or grab a coffee without missing important client calls. As SMBs eye collaborative spaces, having access to documents and programs from anywhere in the building is essential.

3. Manage Cybersecurity Risks

With cybersecurity risks increasing, few small business owners can afford a data breach or loss resulting in downtime. The Currents survey (see my earlier comment specific to attribution/hyperlink) finds, “IT security is a top concern for the majority of small and medium businesses: 59% rank it as their number-one priority, and 91% rank it among their top three priorities.” Cloud security services and programs help business owners:

  • Monitor endpoints of in-house and remote employees
  • Set permissions and access levels using best practices
  • Avoid risks stemming from outdated software or hardware
  • Track worker activities and catch potential security risks

 

Additionally, potent security mechanisms are built into cloud applications and platforms, so even run-of-the-mill work being done in the cloud is going to have greater security than many SMBs have in their on-prem infrastructure.

4. Create a Leaner Operating Model in the Cloud

The physical resources and labor required to maintain networks, servers, and storage can add up fast. Cloud adoption reduces infrastructural costs and big capital expenses. According to the NCC Group, “61% of IT leaders say that cost-cutting is the top reason for their organization to adopt cloud software.”

Instead of purchasing software licenses and replacing server hardware as a capital expenditure, companies can pay a per-user cost and easily add or remove users. Cloud infrastructure allows IT staff to more quickly and easily provision new resources to support growth, as well as draw down unneeded elements when necessary. Managed cloud services allow your IT teams to focus on client-facing improvements and security instead of updating software and hardware on individual workstations.

5. Increase Team Productivity

Prodoscore, an employee visibility software company, reports a “47% productivity increase in 2020.” Cloud tools and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services helped remote workers overcome challenges and complete more tasks. Data shows:

  • 230% increase in telephone calls
  • 57% boost in email activity
  • 9% increase in chat messages
  • 176% rise in customer relationship management (CRM) system activity

According to Statista, only 15% of environments for employee productivity functions use on-premise resources, compared to 31% in 2018. Additionally, hosted, non-cloud infrastructure dropped from 6% to 2%.

6. Expand Your Talent Pool

The cloud supports a distributed workforce and gives your company an edge on the hiring market, letting you tap into a wider pool of candidates than geographic limits allow for, giving you options for the most qualified candidate, no matter where they’re located. Job candidates want to work with innovative organizations that use the latest technologies for scheduling, human resources, and workflows. Furthermore, cloud-based hiring and onboarding help you reduce costs and train workers quickly.

Also, leaders can develop partnerships with contractors who can safely connect to your systems as a guest to maximize collaboration and reduce the back-and-forth of emails or phone calls.

7. Make Better Business Decisions

Few small businesses have the capabilities to take advantage of big data. Doing so requires centralized data systems and frequently large-scale expenditures, along with the agility to test new ideas quickly. The cloud empowers team members and leaders to make data-based decisions by:

  • Providing a central hub to extract insights in real-time
  • Enabling collaboration across multiple business locations
  • Collecting data from more readily integrated software solutions
  • Making the customer lifecycle visible to all departments

8. Create a Scalable Business

Growth costs money, and coming up with the funds and resources makes it harder to scale your business quickly. However, with the cloud, you only pay for the services you need. You can add employees or outsource work by adding a user to your SaaS or creating a guest log-in.

Plus, cross-platform cloud APIs let you integrate existing and new systems while third-party infrastructure handles the increased load. After your peak season ends, or if you need to downsize, you can remove services or users with just a few clicks.

9. Ensure Business Continuity

Whether it’s a pandemic closing your office, a cybersecurity breach locking down your computers, or hardware failure, downtime can cost your company money – often a lot of it. But, your customer’s demands don’t disappear if your workday is disrupted.

Cloud solutions help you plan for business continuity and disaster recovery. Cloud backup and disaster recovery solutions and access to business-critical applications from any internet-connected device ensure your company can keep running regardless of the circumstances and reduce the potential negative impact any downtime-related instance causes your organization.

Protect Your Company’s Future With the Cloud

Are you ready to take advantage of the benefits of the cloud? Start with a high-speed internet connection, then talk to your provider about cloud migration services and tools. A professional that’s familiar with your industry can help you move to the cloud with minimal interruption.