Every year, for the last half-decade or more, businesses have been told how the coming 12 months will be the year of cloud computing. As of 2014, the IT delivery model has entered the mainstream, with millions of users in the UK and worldwide. Cloud solutions are readily available to businesses of all sizes, allowing them to change the way they access technology tools and applications, and create leaner IT infrastructures.
According to the Cloud Industry Forum, the market for cloud solutions has expanded rapidly in the last 18 months, as more businesses have recognised the value in moving their IT online. The organisation reported a 27 per cent increase in first-time users, noting that the rate of adoption has accelerated in the last nine months.
At the end of 2013, the forum estimated that 75 per cent of UK companies were using at least one cloud service, and 80 per cent of current customers had increased their spend over the year. The decision to focus more on cloud services is giving companies additional IT flexibility and agility, offering access to market-leading solutions, helping to reduce costs and improving security.
The cloud is levelling the playing field
Access to cloud computing solutions means small businesses can use IT solutions they previously would not have been able to afford. The ability to pay for advanced hardware, software and applications on a subscription basis - rather than purchasing them outright - means there is less need for capital expenditure on IT. Cloud users may not own as many IT assets, but then they don't need to. What they require is 24/7 access to the latest value-adding hosted services, on-demand, as and when they need them.
David Small, chief platform officer of Verizon Enterprise Solutions, commented that the cloud is driving the "democratisation of enterprise technology". Businesses of all shapes and sizes, across all manner of industries, can be seen as equal in the cloud. They subscribe to services through an online vendor in the same way - paying only for what they use - whether they are a tiny start-up or a national chain.
"Mirroring what has happened in consumer technology, enterprise technology users look for services to be delivered on-demand, to a time and place of their choosing and in the way that they want," Mr Small stated. "In 2014, enterprise success will be measured by how well organisations are able to use technology to meet user expectations and harness individual innovation."
Is it time to up your cloud investment?
What is your company's current stance towards the cloud? The Cloud Industry Forum believes the majority of UK companies are now using at least one hosted service, but to what extent are you benefiting from third-party IT? Given the potential benefits cloud computing has - both in terms of reducing costs and improving productivity within the enterprise - 2014 may be the year when you should place greater faith in the service delivery model.
Many adopters test the cloud on a single, non-critical application, to sample the benefits for themselves. But in some cases, this is as far as things go - since persuading users to abandon the status quo is not always easy. But by continuing to rely on on-premise IT solutions, businesses are creating more work for themselves, in terms of management and maintenance, and ultimately eating into their own profits.
Moving other functions to the cloud can allow your company to benefit from a cloud vendor's economy of scale. They are providing IT services to hundreds, potentially thousands of different customers, and as such, are able to make hefty investments in servers, networking equipment, software, applications and security tools. The decision to take advantage of a cloud computing provider's IT firepower could just help your business kick on to the next level in 2014.
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Posted by Alex Boardman