The potential benefits to small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) of cloud computing, whereby applications or data are accessible on the Internet instead of on a single computer or private network, have been well documented. IDC expects SMB spending on cloud solutions to grow by almost 20 percent annually over the next five years.
Common examples of cloud-based services that SMBs are taking advantage of include hosted email and storage, online payment and accounting software. As well as these new types of cloud-based services many older, more traditional services are also ‘moving to the cloud’ to become more efficient and cost-effective.
For example, while fax may seem outdated as a method of business communication, very often there is a legal requirement for businesses to be able to send and receive faxes even though fax machines can be costly both in terms of initial outlay and on-going maintenance.
Hosted fax solutions provide a cost-effective alternative, enabling companies to send and receive faxes securely over the Internet and are just one example of how cloud computing has the power to revolutionise longstanding business practices for SMBs.
However, with more and more businesses turning to the cloud for everything from the basics, such as fax, to more advanced services such as customer relationship management (CRM), network connectivity has never been more important. Services delivered through the cloud are only as reliable as the network that they are delivered on - if the connection to the Internet goes down so does the ability to access important data and applications which may be critical for day to day operations.
For cloud-based solutions, network availability becomes critical, particularly with the increasing use of data-heavy technologies such as IP telephony and video competing for bandwidth. Indeed, network security and reliability are among the biggest concerns for companies looking at adopting cloud services. So what can businesses do to ensure network reliability while keeping costs to a minimum?
- Flexibility: SMBs need an Internet service in place which meets their specific bandwidth requirements but at the same time is flexible enough to ensure only the capacity needed is paid for, with the ability to scale up as more capacity is needed to enable business growth while keeping control of costs
- Dual Internet connection: A dual Internet connection, comprising both business-class Internet access and residential broadband, will help keep costs low while also providing backup connectivity should one of the connections go down to ensure no downtime. In addition, a dual Internet connection enables priority traffic, such as quality-sensitive voice and video calls, to be routed via the connection with the highest bandwidth, reserving any spare capacity for less critical traffic to avoid Internet slowdowns
- Service guarantees: SMBs need a network they can rely on and as such, should look for an Internet service that is backed up with stringent service level guarantees to ensure the highest levels of network availability
For many SMBs, the Internet has become critical to day to day operations. Companies looking to cut computing costs and improve efficiency are finding the many benefits of Internet-based software and services increasingly attractive. Cloud systems are efficient, scalable and secure and give SMEs access to the kind of computing power previously only available to big business, on a pay-per-use basis to minimise capital expenditure (CAPEX), reduce costs and sustain growth in new areas.
Written by Sven Muller, Senior Solution Marketing Manager, Colt