10 good reasons to go to the cloud


Any investment in technology must add value to your business: cutting costs, helping information workers and improving sales. Many medium-sized businesses are turning to cloud computing - software delivered as a utility, like gas or electricity – to realise these benefits. Here are 10 good reasons why, in a recent survey, 70% businesses said that they have already moved to the cloud or plan to do so.

1. Control costs

Frozen IT budgets make cost a deciding factor for medium-sized businesses. Cloud computing means you spend less and what you do spend can be tightly controlled. Here’s why:

  • Lower outgoings: since cloud charges are priced on a flat rate per month basis, some firms have cut IT delivery costs by as much as 90%
  • Better use of your budget: there’s no wastage - you only pay for what you use
  • Predictable costs: charges relate directly to the resource you place in the cloud and what users consume
  • Control: costs don’t exceed what you authorise – no nasty surprises!
  • This gives medium-sized businesses the same quality software and IT services as larger rivals, without incurring similar costs. That’s got to be music to your CFO’s ears!

2. Convert capex to opex

Because markets can change overnight, medium-sized businesses can’t afford to be locked into capital investment commitments. But with traditional IT models, you have to spend money upfront on the infrastructure for any new technology. Not so with the cloud, where (just like renting a car or buying electricity) there’s no infrastructure or equipment cost; so many businesses therefore find that cloud computing eases cashflow. Since you pay per-month, per-user, you can run your software out of operational budgets, rather than incurring capital expenditure.

3. Enjoy the best of both worlds

It’s important you get the cloud on your terms. That’s why Microsoft’s Cloud Services - unlike those of many other vendors - integrate perfectly with your existing programs, servers and infrastructure, so you can have a combination of cloud, on-premise and hosted software. You can also mix and match services and per-seat usage as your business needs change.

And if you decide to move some applications back to on-premise, cloud licensing matches that of the on-premise versions - so you can move back and forth as necessary. Perfect examples will be available shortly in the shape of Office 365, which brings cloud versions of familiar Office programs together for the first time: Office Professional Plus and Office Web Apps for productivity across PC, phone and browser, SharePoint for data management, Exchange for email, and Lync for unified communications.

4. Focus on business instead of IT

By putting the management of your IT in the safe hands of Microsoft or one of its many UK partners, cloud computing lets you concentrate on your core business instead of IT headaches. Cloud services give you:

  • High availability: we keep your IT ‘live’ by fixing systems in real-time
  • Easy management: a simple management dashboard makes deploying, updating your programs, and switching between environments transparent
  • Servers on tap: we lay on servers within minutes of you requesting them
  • Automatic software patching: we ensure software patches and updates are automatically applied.

Eliminating these hassles is particularly compelling if IT isn’t one of your company’s strengths. A good example is our recently launched low-cost cloud-based optimisation service, Windows Intune, which makes managing and securing your PCs simpler and cheaper. It ensures your PCs are economically licenced, running smoothly, optimised for performance and protected against viruses – in the office and on the road. Simply install an agent (a tiny piece of software) on each PC, and Intune will keep your PCs humming.

5. Dynamic scale

Most businesses need to scale their computing capacity up or down at times to meet demand. With traditional IT, you have to predict your capacity requirements well in advance: how many users you’ll have; what their usage patterns will be; and how many servers you’ll need to buy to support that load? Underestimating can result in failure to support your peak load; overestimating can lead to excessive purchases that go unused.

With the cloud, you’ve no need for a crystal ball - you simply call on the capacity you need, when you need it. Seasonal businesses in particular can benefit enormously by being able to dynamically scale up or down. For example, an accountancy practice might need lots more computing capacity in March-April and comparatively less during the rest of the year. The cloud allows you to increase or decrease the size of your deployment at will.

6. Reduce business risk

While it’s natural to ask about risk when it comes to any new technology, cloud computing actually reduces business risk in several ways:

  • Availability is guaranteed by your cloud provider’s use of large-scale server farms - in Microsoft’s case, the equivalent of 20 football pitches. We’ll also detect any failed server and immediately replace it
  • Data loss is mitigated by our storage infrastructure, which saves your data in multiple places to guard against potential hardware failure.
  • Walk-away consequences are removed thanks to the flexibility of most cloud business models. With a monthly arrangement, you can walk away at any time without financial or contractual obligations.

Eliminating these hassles is particularly compelling if IT isn’t one of your company’s strengths. A good example is our recently launched low-cost cloud-based optimisation service, Windows Intune, which makes managing and securing your PCs simpler and cheaper. It ensures your PCs are economically licenced, running smoothly, optimised for performance and protected against viruses – in the office and on the road. Simply install an agent (a tiny piece of software) on each PC, and Intune will keep your PCs humming.

7. Safe as houses

50% of businesses say their main concern over cloud computing is the risk to security, according to a Forrester survey. Microsoft’s cloud services are certainly far more robust than anything any medium-sized businesses could reasonably afford acting unilaterally. Ours run on a global network of replicated data centres shielded by many layers of security and operational best practices. In the unlikely event of a problem with any one centre, services automatically switch to a backup site.

With Microsoft online services, the latest versions of software are deployed and updated automatically, ensuring that you always benefit from the best security and current functionality. Moreover, services hosted by Microsoft and its partners are highly reliable, backed by strict service level agreements (SLAs), managed by rigorously screened and highly trained staff.

8. Increased flexibility

The flexibility afforded by the cloud can mean the difference between being an innovator and being late to the game. For instance, if your business strategy involves bringing new products to market faster, the cloud’s self-service approach and capacity can allow you to launch business initiatives in minutes. Cloud computing makes your business more agile by:

  • Reducing delays: no procurement cycle to deal with, no approvals, no purchases, no waiting
  • Rapid deployment: you kick off deployments through a portal and machines are provisioned in minutes
  • Speedy upgrades: updates to applications via the portal also take effect in minutes
  • Instant scale: scaling up or down is another quick and simple portal exercise.

When it comes to creating and, crucially, scaling business applications smoothly at times of peak demand, Microsoft’s cloud-based version of Windows, Azure, provides familiar territory for developers. It uses the .NET Framework for programming and hooks into other Microsoft services like Exchange and SharePoint, as well as allowing you to extend your existing user directory to Azure web applications.

Another cloud tool that’s particularly useful for increasing marketing potential is Dynamics CRM Online. This works (via Office Outlook, most Internet browsers, a SharePoint portal or a mobile device) to help marketing, sales and customer service staff efficiently automate workflows and centralise customer information.

9. Increased agility

Cost-cutting and operational potential apart, the cloud can play a key role in your broader business strategy:

  • It lets your IT staff focus on supporting business functions rather than infrastructure, and helps grow your IT capability often at a lower cost than doing everything in-house
  • Its scalability and flexibility let you quickly add vital new applications or supplement existing infrastructure
  • A lean IT base lowers the cost and risk involved in exploring new markets
  • Cloud lets you deliver great service without paying for extra hardware, software, staff and maintenance.

10. Go mobile

Finally, as cloud services are delivered online, often through nothing more sophisticated than a browser, they are of course available on mobile devices like smartphones and tablet PCs, too. If your sales team or home workers have ever felt disconnected from the office, the cloud might just be the ideal opportunity to hook them back up with your data and know-how. Microsoft cloud services can be browser-driven, many have bespoke apps on several mobile platforms, and on phones running the Windows Phone operating system, are often completely and seamlessly integrated.

Cloud computing is a game-changing technology that offers a lifeline to for cash-strapped businesses in these austere times. It’s economical, quick, always up-to-date, scalable and mobile. It gives you the very latest Microsoft programs, slicker communications, 24x7 availability, total security, negligible IT management and lower costs. Not least, it gives you freedom to focus on running your business - not your IT systems.

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