Small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are finally able to compete on a level playing field with larger corporations thanks to cloud computing, say industry experts.
According to communications experts Node4, more opportunities are opening up for SMEs to take their first steps into using the cloud – although smaller firms are yet to “fully embrace” the impact it could make.
Business development manager at Node4, Paul Bryce, said: “The benefits of cloud computing are extensive and for the first time ever, businesses are able to compete on a level playing field.”
He added that cloud infrastructures are “very efficient and cost effective” and services can be aimed at new or start-up businesses “without the infrastructure or capital to get going”.
The message makes sense given the huge boost businesses are about to receive from the increase in competition of 4G mobile services with O2 and Vodafone launching their own tariffs recently. This in itself will allow businesses much more choice in cost-saving options when operating from the virtual office.
Also, the Guardian has reported on possible European Commission plans to scrap excessive mobile roaming charges within the European Union by 2014. This again can only be good news for SMEs looking to expand into Europe by reducing costs on services like video conferencing and accessing the internet from abroad.
For those SMEs looking to step into the cloud for the first time, Node4 says many businesses start off with a simple email solution or file-sharing in a similar way to how Dropbox works.
Cloud computing has been pinpointed by Node4 as a key area for SMEs with “aspirations of growth” to focus on.
A recent study by IT innovation analysts 451 Research predicted the worldwide cloud computing network would achieve a 36 per cent compound annual growth rate by 2016. The survey also found the market size would be worth around $19.5 billion (£12.5 million) over the next three years.
Cloud computing to drive the virtual office
About 80 per cent of employees could be working ‘outside’ their organisation by 2020 thanks to the rise of cloud computing, it has been claimed.
Intergence, an IT consultancy, said the prevalence of cloud technology will benefit mobile workers and those operating virtual offices as they can make use of software and services as and when they need them.
Dr Steven Turner, vice president of Intergence, said hooking up to the cloud means companies only need an internet connection and a web browser.
“Employees can use cloud services to share files, access business services, talk to each other or collaborate on shared documents in real time,” he said.
Cloud computing allows people to build a “geographically diverse” team that works together with all the benefits of improved productivity and better communication, it was claimed.
An example of a cloud-based tool is the popular Google Documents, which allows companies to create and manage documents online.