Operating a successful SME in the current economic environment takes a fiercely determined and entrepreneurial attitude, some out-of-the-box thinking to gain a competitive edge and a keen financial mind to manage cash flow and save on costs.
Over the last decade technology has become a key differentiator and enabler in this regard, for those SMEs who could afford the best hardware and software that is. However, a paradigm shift in the way businesses use technology is opening up a whole new world of opportunity for SMEs.
“With the rapidly changing state of the local connectivity market, characterised by higher speed and capacity at lower costs, for both fixed line and mobile data, as well as the accessibility of local and international tier 4 data centres, cloud computing is finally coming to the fore as a viable, game changing technology for SMEs,” says Lizelle Christison, manager of the upcoming IP EXPO, to be held on 15 and 16 November.
Cloud computing involves the hosting of data, applications, communications and services in a data centre, which enables them to be provisioned on any device, anywhere, at any time, as long as there is an Internet connection. “This obviously empowers SMEs, by making them nimble, quick and agile, allowing them to conduct better, faster business,” she continues.
However, according to Christison, the benefits extend far deeper than mobility. “Firstly, cloud computing moves the capital expenditure normally associated with the purchase and upgrading of physical hardware and software to an operational expense. All the infrastructure is owned, managed and maintained by the service provider, and consists of hardware normally out of reach for SMEs. The basic operational costs associated with managing and maintaining these systems, such as technical staff and software updates, are also shifted to the service provider and, due to the economies of scale achievable, these costs can also be vastly reduced.
“The SME simply purchases rack space and the associated services, and then gets immediate access to email, enterprise applications and the data storage capabilities required to conduct their daily business,” she says.
Once in the cloud an SME’s growth potential is almost infinite, as scalability and total cost of ownership become inversely proportional, which is not the case when you try to scale up and maintain your own physical infrastructure. “For a burgeoning SME, new users can be added on demand, from any location, which vastly reduces the time it takes to expand operations and keeps the organisation nimble,” explains Christison.
Mature market = lower costs
“The cost of expansion can also be mitigated, as expensive hardware with a great deal of RAM and storage is no longer required. As such, a low cost thin client device that simply has a screen, keyboard and Internet access becomes a suitable work tool,” she continues. Power usage, cooling requirements and the costs of internally housed servers also decreases.
“Then there is the benefit of knowing that your data and applications are secure, yet always accessible, no matter what happens,” comments Christison. Cloud-based services from reputable service providers will always be backed by SLAs, and have strict access controls for physical and remote access to the data centre. The data centre will also have a power and connectivity failover to ensure redundancy and continued uptime should a line go down or a power outage occur. A service provider with a large data centre network can also ensure that multiple instances of an SME’s information is stored in disparate locations, ensuring complete data compliance and peace of mind.
“And with the local hosted and managed services market becoming more mature, the cost per user has become very competitive, which rounds out a comprehensive value proposition for SMEs. Therefore, there is little doubt about the benefits of cloud computing for SMEs, as it puts the power and potential offered by technology in the hands of smaller organisations who want to survive and prosper in this increasingly competitive and dynamic marketplace,” says Christison.
These and other hot topics will come under scrutiny at this year’s IP EXPO on 15 and 16 November at the Sandton Convention Centre. To register for your free place at the show, visit http://www.ipexpo.co.za/Register