Article by Louis Koen, Head of Crimson Line
Some might have missed the big announcement in June that Microsoft will be opening cloud data centres in South Africa next year. For small businesses, there has never been a better time to take the plunge and take their business into the cloud. Not only will it dramatically impact their IT costs, but securing their critical data will become significantly easier.
Despite the volumes written about the benefits of running at least parts of your business in the cloud, South African SMEs remain curiously reserved about taking the first steps in this global trend. Anecdotal evidence from local vendors shows that local cloud adoption stands at a meagre 30%. When compared to global figures of around 70 to 80%, we are coming across as rather technophobic.
The reasons for not embracing cloud services may stem from a number of issues.
Despite the leaps and bounds made in cloud offerings, there is still a perception that this is only for companies with upward of 20 employees. Not only was the cloud thought to be appropriate only for large companies, but the idea still persists that implementing a cloud solution is costly and difficult.
More than this, the more traditional thinkers still want to own and see where their company data is stored. Financial managers like the idea of writing down the hardware over three years and then sweating out an extra year or two.
This attitude is not helped by the smaller IT support companies who see cloud services as a threat to their traditional support businesses.
However, small business owners are doing themselves a serious disservice by not investigating the benefits of moving at least some of their IT functions into the cloud.
There’s nothing like a major breach or malware attack to focus the minds of business leaders on the need for decent security.
Unfortunately, for the small business owner, this can be a daunting litany of jargon-filled, alarmist news stories and daily security warnings from their antivirus software.
Unfortunately, malware is getting increasingly sophisticated. While most of us know not to click through on a suspicious link in an email, or download an attachment with an unusual file extension, some websites carry adverts which redirect to infected sites. Even the most diligent user can be duped into exposing themselves, and their business networks, to malicious software.
The often-overlooked cost of falling victim to ransomware or other malicious attacks, is that your vital data (like financial information) are immediately out or reach. Murphy’s law will often have this happen at critical times, like financial year-end. But even on a day-to-day basis, losing access to your data puts you at a significant operational risk, not to mention the reputational damage incurred when having to explain to customers and partners that your internal security is clearly not up to scratch.
Cloud-based services such as Office 365 eliminate much of the security pain.
The reality is that large cloud services, like Microsoft, are financially invested in securing your data and services. Staying ahead of the security curve is one of their key business requirements.
What is more, should you inadvertently fall prey to malicious software you can rest easy. Microsoft employs multiple layers of redundancy and backups of information at the data center level, so it can be restored. This means if you lose your data, either by a breach or by a terminal machine failure (yes, that’s the cup of coffee all over your laptop), you can request assistance and access all your stored data, or, if malware has already infiltrated your files, roll back to the last version of your files, before the attack. Of course, we should all remember to backup our devices and this habit should continue to be encouraged by business leaders.
It’s faster and more cost effective
Cloud services have rapidly decreased in cost over the last five years. At around R74 per user, per month, a company of three members could host the lion’s share of their digital office needs for the same price they would pay for a lunch at a reasonably priced steakhouse – before drinks! What’s more the setup and installation costs are not prohibitive and, when it comes to good corporate governance, they can also rest easy that they have ticked all the boxes when it comes to data protection, business continuity and protection of personal information.
It doesn’t have to be all or nothing
Finally, moving your business into the cloud doesn’t have to be a Big Bang scenario. Opting for just a few of your services, such as email, going onto the cloud can be a way for you to become comfortable before migrating the rest of your IT functions. Most small companies already make use of payroll services offered over the cloud, with little or no disruption. With personal details and sensitive information like remuneration residing outside the company not being an issue, there is no reason why any business owner should feel any concern about migrating the rest of their digital functions.
For smaller businesses, it’s a constant battle to drive efficiencies into the organisation, while maintaining high operational standards. For business owners, this means taking the next step and securing their digital future – in the cloud.