Lift­ing the haze over the cloud

Look­ing through the haze, now is the per­fect time for SMBS to move to the cloud says Stephane Ibos.

Business First - - CONTENTS - by Stephane Ibos

The cloud is one of the trendi­est topics in busi­ness right now. It may fea­ture on nearly ev­ery event pro­gram but it continues to be wildly mis­un­der­stood. Most businesses un­der­stand that the cloud ‘will hap­pen’ and are wait­ing for its time to re­ally ar­rive. The re­al­ity is that this time has ar­rived and it’s time to dis­pel some myths.

SMBs are the bread and but­ter of most economies. Aus­tralia is no ex­cep­tion with a stag­ger­ing two mil­lion SMBs pow­er­ing the na­tion. These businesses are driven by suc­cess­ful, mo­ti­vated pro­fes­sion­als pi­o­neer­ing ex­cep­tional prod­ucts and ser­vices on limited re­sources. These com­pa­nies at­tract bright, nim­ble minds that col­lab­o­rate to make fast de­ci­sions and pro­pel growth.

Para­dox­i­cally, these for­ward think­ing businesses are man­aged and run on spread­sheets. Ac­cord­ing to Mi­crosoft’s “Driv­ers and In­hibitors to Cloud Adop­tion for Small and Medium Businesses” 2013 sur­vey, 80% of SMBs use spread­sheets as a pri­mary tool to con­duct their op­er­a­tions and more than 60% of these self-man­age their IT. I am fas­ci­nated by this dis­crep­ancy in re­al­ity and in­ten­tion.

Cloud ser­vices have be­come much more so­phis­ti­cated in their evo­lu­tion. The ad­van­tages of the cloud are be­com­ing bet­ter known and ac­cepted – 80% of busi­ness own­ers feel they need to move to the cloud very soon to ben­e­fit from its ease of use, de­lo­calised ac­cess and low costs – so what have been the tra­di­tional bar­ri­ers to en­try for SMB own­ers?


Firstly, the cloud has tra­di­tion­ally been dif­fi­cult to ac­cess – and par­tic­u­larly to

find the right cloud for your busi­ness. There are plenty of of­fers out there on­line and suf­fice to say that typ­ing ‘Cloud CRM’ in an on­line search en­gine will re­turn more re­sults than you could ever hope for – a time-con­sum­ing and dif­fi­cult task to sort through the op­tions and un­der­stand the ben­e­fits and costs.

Sec­ondly, cost has been a show­stop­per in the cloud story for SMBs. Plenty of web­sites will of­fer at­trac­tive (if not free) en­try of­fers, which soon turn out to be in­suf­fi­cient. These of­fers are de­signed to lead the prospect to choos­ing paid plans. Once step­ping into the world of ‘real’ plans, it is dis­ap­point­ing to re­alise how pricey they be­come – par­tic­u­larly when com­pared to that free spread­sheet!

The third and fi­nal bar­rier to en­try is se­cu­rity. Most of our cus­tomers ask (and rightly so) where their data is hosted, who owns it, what would hap­pen if the com­pany dis­ap­peared or if a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter struck? These are rel­e­vant ques­tions but un­for­tu­nately most cloud so­lu­tion providers do not clar­ify these points in a sim­ple, trans­par­ent and un­der­stand­able man­ner. We are wise enough to know that when some­thing is un­clear, it’s prob­a­bly worth avoid­ing.

Weigh­ing up these three bar­ri­ers, it’s clear why the cloud can seem com­pli­cated, ex­pen­sive and un­se­cure. The chal­lenge is for the next gen­er­a­tion of cloud ser­vices providers to change the per­cep­tion and prove the in­her­ent ad­van­tages of mov­ing busi­ness sys­tems to a so­phis­ti­cated and se­cure cloud based ser­vice.


The beau­ti­ful thing about the in­ter­net is the con­stant in­no­va­tion that it nur­tures. There are great prod­ucts and plat­forms out there that have en­deav­oured to change the way the cloud op­er­ates and hope in turn that its per­cep­tion will change as well.

There’s never been a bet­ter time to trust in the cloud. As it be­comes more wide­spread, plat­forms be­come avail­able to dis­tin­guish be­tween the good and bad and help businesses com­pare and an­a­lyse of­fers.

Most new cloud ser­vices are trans­par­ent and of­fer great ways to get started with sim­ple tu­to­ri­als, free trial pe­ri­ods and sup­port pro­vided by real people – a real game changer. In­no­va­tive plat­forms such as Maes­trano have launched with the ded­i­cated in­ten­tion to bring to the cloud a whole new level of sim­plic­ity, se­cu­rity and en­hanced ser­vices, specif­i­cally for SMBs. It is be­com­ing far eas­ier for SMBs to find clear prod­ucts at cost- ef­fec­tive prices.

To­day is the first day of the rest of the cloud’s life. And it is an op­por­tu­nity for SMBs to save time, money and get rid of the bur­den of the ex­pen­sive server in the back­room of the of­fice. Gone are the days of the IT con­sul­tant com­ing in ev­ery Fri­day to change the hard drive and the out­ra­geous li­censes paid for limited func­tion­al­ity desk­top soft­ware.


It is un­der­stand­able that fears re­main. For most SMBs it has been hard enough to es­tab­lish sys­tems that just ‘do the job’. Chang­ing and learn­ing new sys­tems can be a daunt­ing task but so­phis­ti­cated en­gi­neer­ing has en­abled the cloud to evolve into a solid and sta­ble place of­fer­ing real op­tions and sup­port for SMBs.

As Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Lin­coln said on ed­u­ca­tion ver­sus ig­no­rance: “If you think ed­u­ca­tion is ex­pen­sive, try ig­no­rance.” I would of­fer, “If you think new is scary, try old.”

SMB own­ers are em­brac­ing a grow­ing mind shift as they re­alise the huge ben­e­fits of mov­ing to the cloud and that there has never been a bet­ter time for businesses to make the jump. The cloud mi­gra­tion is hap­pen­ing. A Ring-Cen­tral an­nual sur­vey in 2013 fore­casted that SMBs will spend more than $9 bil­lion dol­lars by 2016 mov­ing to the cloud.

These businesses will be faster, more ag­ile and se­cure, well po­si­tioned to deliver new prod­ucts and ser­vices in real time, any­where, any­time. The haze is lift­ing, the cloud is a real op­por­tu­nity for SMBs – the sky is the limit.

‘ The beau­ti­ful thing about the in­ter­net is the con­stant in­no­va­tion that it nur­tures.’

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