Are small businesses coming round to the cloud?

The uptake of the cloud among small businesses hasn’t been as strong as some experts originally expected. According to the research from managed services provider Claranet, more medium-sized companies are using cloud services (60%) than smaller businesses (44%).

But Matthew Thornington at solar electricity company SunSmart Energy, which has just eight staff, believes there is a growing trend among small businesses, particularly start-ups, in the adoption of cloud technology.

Thornington says using cloud management tools enabled the company to reduce management time on IT and quickly set up a second branch. “We started a branch in Cheltenham and got the IT set up in a shorter time than it takes to cut new keys,” he said.

The company uses Microsoft Dynamics CRM to provide admin functions for people in different divisions and accounting tools.

“The strategy for IT is to spend as little time as possible with the maximum results. That’s useful for cash-flow, as there was no initial cash spent in having to set up servers. Whenever we can we use software-as-a-service at its more scalable – which is good because it can be tricky to predict the industry.”

The company was founded in January and started in April last year. “It wouldn’t have been possible to do that in the same amount of time, because we had flexibility with the IT we were able to get on with other stuff. 

“We could have easily got through £20,000 in setting up servers and less accountable things like staff working out the hardware and systems. This way we spend just a couple of £100 per month.”

Tanya Shirlow, Head of SMB at Microsoft, says there is still some scepticism among small companies about the cloud but believes this is starting to change.

“Businesses can be sceptical about new technologies that they do not understand well; many SMBs may associate new models of IT consumption as being the reserve of enterprises, as requiring an untenable level of in-house IT support or of being too ‘vanilla’ to apply to their organisation,” she said.

“Innovation can be seen as risky to implement as there is no definitive guide on how to do it properly.  However, by making small changes to existing processes one step at a time, the benefits of cloud computing can lead to a path of innovation that will propel businesses forward,” she said.

The article follows a roundtable discussion with Microsoft about SME cloud uptake in January.