A major focus of this year’s Cloud for Business report was cloud adoption, but what happens when IT strategy and cloud-based plans meet resistance?
In this week’s feature article we revisit this subject as originally written by Chris Stokel-Walker in this year’s Raconteur Cloud for Business report.
Adopting cloud services is far more than a cost-efficiency matter. The full business case for doing so has several elements that should reassure even the most sceptical of business leaders
The rise of cloud services has been seemingly unstoppable in recent years. Research last year by US jobsite Zippia estimated that 94% of businesses were using the Cloud in some capacity. If you’re a decision-maker in one of the 6% that haven’t adopted this technology and you’re yet to be convinced that the pros outweigh the cons, here are four persuasive reasons to change your mind. Each is based on what your firm could be losing out on by steering clear of the Cloud.
Losing out on competitiveness
Even if your company isn’t trying to use the latest technological advances to gain an edge in its market, most of its rivals are certain to be. Alister Sneddon, Head of Product at CMC Invest, the developer of an app-based investment platform says that “using cloud technology – and using it right – helps businesses to stay at the cutting edge of developments and keep pace with their customers’ needs.
Using the Cloud to manage security patches, for instance, enables teams to focus on improving processes. Having that time back is crucial in helping you to innovate and enhance the customer experience your products provide.” Cloud technology has enabled CMC Invest to deploy new features rapidly on the app that it has developed. “Using the cloud to ‘spin up’ tests and manage technical spikes means that we can create and test ideas at a low cost without affecting our hardware,” Sneddon says. “We can respond to customer feedback within hours, not weeks. As the technology enables serverless edge computing, we’re as close to our customers and their devices as possible, which reduces latency and dependencies.”
M247 thoughts: Cloud is undoubtedly a key differentiator in terms of giving businesses a competitive advantage. Those with no cloud infrastructure in place are not only limited by the capabilities of their on-premises legacy hardware, they are limited by the silos that engenders. One of the greatest attributes of the Cloud is the mobility it supports, which can drive improvements across all areas of the business.
Mobility of systems enables newer models of interworking. Mobility of data enables ease of access and greater collaboration across the organisation. Mobility of functions streamlines workflows and allows for resources to be deployed to more revenue-generating tasks.
Together these create an environment where teams can work together more closely, tap into knowledge and insights from across the business, offload and automate routine tasks, and focus on collaborative innovation to drive growth. Businesses not leveraging the Cloud will find themselves falling further and further behind over the next few years as their cloud competitors look to the future.
Losing out on adaptability
Another cloud benefit is that its flexibility enables firms to scale their use of its services up and down according to their requirements. This functionality is often viewed through the lens of cost-efficiency, but it’s not only about the bottom line. It’s also about how your business can match the pace of change in a fast-moving market.
“Most businesses have peaks in demand, typically five times greater than usual loads,” says Danny Quilton, co-founder and CTO of Capacitas consultancy. “If they didn’t use the scalability of the Cloud, businesses would have to build their infrastructure five times larger than they need for normal usage.”
He cites JD Sports as an example of a company that spins up ecommerce capacity in the Cloud when it can see spikes in demand approaching. While the ability to turn cloud assets on and off like a tap clearly does offer cost savings, there are also business continuity benefits. A company experiencing a growth spurt and taking on an influx of customers, say, can quickly ramp up its capacity in a way that wouldn’t be possible with a traditional hardware solution. The firm can buy and access cloud services within hours. Such flexibility works equally well when a business is on the downswing. For seasonal enterprises, for instance, the ability to stand down cloud services easily when it doesn’t need them can be just as valuable.
M247 thoughts: Adaptability is a key tenet of cloud computing, and not just in terms of capacity. While it is important that businesses are able to handle spikes and falls in demand, it’s equally important to adapt in order to serve customers and support employees in any way they try to engage.
Cloud services offer businesses a quick, easy and cost-effective way of tapping into new technologies and leveraging new applications in response to shifting customer demands and changing employee expectations. Whether that’s spinning up new omni-channel customer contact options, leveraging app automation for enhanced eCommerce support or bringing new products or services to market at lightning speed, the Cloud supports business adaptability that can drive growth, foster loyalty and attract new talent.
Losing out on resilience
One of the hardest things for a company to do is get back on its feet after a serious cybersecurity breach. The impact of a successful ransomware attack can be powerful enough to knock a firm out of business permanently. Although the number of ransomware attacks worldwide declined slightly between 2021 and last year, according to IBM, the business-interruption risk they pose remains high. Entrusting your data to the Cloud won’t prevent such attacks (in many cases, that would require training to stop employees making basic errors such as clicking on suspicious hyperlinks), but it can help your business to get up and running again if the worst does happen.
Businesses using the Cloud are twice as likely as non-users to say that they’ve implemented a complete disaster-recovery plan within four hours of an attack. Off-site online back-ups often make it possible for them to recover data that might ordinarily have been compromised by such a hack.
“It’s difficult for ransomware to encrypt files in the Cloud, as they tend not to be part of your corporate network,” notes Alan Woodward, visiting professor of cybersecurity at the University of Surrey. “It creates a partial firebreak.” But he cautions against relying on this tactic in the ongoing war against the cybercriminals. “This is not a guarantee – and its usefulness is more about recovering once you’ve rebuilt your inhouse platforms,” Woodward stresses.
M247 thoughts: Enhanced business resilience is a key benefit of cloud computing. Storing data and workflows in the Cloud not only mitigates the risk of physical damage to servers – things like fire, flood and other acts of God no longer pose a threat – it also gives businesses access to cutting-edge security and storage solutions with in-built resilience to support continuity plans.
Cloud service providers often have in-house teams of industry-leading cybersecurity talent, as well as access to the favourable bulk-purchase pricing, which means they are continually innovating new features and improvements. Every time a provider upgrades a solution like Backup as a Service or Managed Firewall to tackle a new or emerging cyber threat, businesses using those solutions benefit from the enhanced resilience without needing to invest in further protective measures. Things like backup immutability are also standard in the Cloud too, so while businesses which still rely upon on-premises backup are vulnerable to ransomware attacks so need to consider purchasing expensive immutability hardware, those using cloud-based solutions enjoy better resilience through protection of critical data.
Presence in the Cloud also puts businesses in good stead for leveraging new and emerging cutting-edge security features. With some elements capable of supporting a Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) architecture that converges networking and security for enhanced resilience.
Losing out on the changing face of data
One of the big changes we’re seeing in how businesses operate in recent years concerns the presentation of data in their workflows. The International Data Corporation has predicted that 80% of the world’s data will be unstructured by 2025. That will have a huge impact on the way systems work and what businesses can do to ensure that they can stay on top of the masses of material they’re expected to handle. This is another area in which cloud technology can help.
Sébastien Marotte, president of cloud supplier Box in EMEA, explains: “Unstructured data is at the heart of every company’s workflow, from image searches in the marketing team to contract negotiations in the legal department. It can be incredibly hard to secure, access and collaborate on.
“The Cloud enables a centralisation of content in all forms, including unstructured data, and supports collaborative workflows, optimising cooperation and data-driven decision-making.”
He adds that this is becoming ever more relevant as the rise of AI continues and various industries find applications for the technology. “Only from that centralised data set will businesses eventually take advantage of the great strides that are being made in artificial intelligence and the potential it promises for productivity,” Marotte predicts. “This affects every role in an enterprise.”
M247 thoughts: Data is a critical business asset, as such businesses which are not leveraging cloud solutions to harvest, store and analyse it are undoubtedly missing out. From Data Management as a Service solutions designed specifically to help business combat the monumental task of managing increasing amounts of data, to enhanced ease of access in an increasingly complex data estate, the benefits of cloud in a digital-first environment are far-reaching. Perhaps one of the greatest data benefits businesses with no cloud presence are missing out on is the opportunity and potential for mining data to make better-informed decisions.
Many cloud solutions harness artificial intelligence and machine learning to give business leaders a detailed picture of what’s happening within the business, as well as the tools and insights they need to automate processes, make resource efficiencies, drive customer experience and attract the best talent. For example, solutions like unified communications tools can integrate with CRMs and back-office functions to streamline workflows, enhance collaboration and automate customer conversations to quicker, self-service resolutions. In a cloud environment, more data means deeper business insight across the board, and this presents managers with the opportunity to identify areas for optimisation, areas for development and, crucially, areas for innovation, growth and differentiation.
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