Cloud computing has been an IT buzz word for many years and its benefits discussed at length, however, small and medium companies (SMEs) in the UK appear to be lagging behind their European counterparts in terms of adoption. Many are failing to embrace cloud technology, despite the much talked about benefits ranging from reduced IT costs to improved efficiencies. David Sturges, CEO, of WorkPlaceLive discusses why they needn’t fear ‘the cloud’.

Cloud computing has been an IT buzz word for many years and its benefits discussed at length, however, small and medium companies (SMEs) in the UK appear to be lagging behind their European counterparts in terms of adoption. Many are failing to embrace cloud technology, despite the much talked about benefits ranging from reduced IT costs to improved efficiencies. David Sturges, CEO, of WorkPlaceLive discusses why they needn’t fear ‘the cloud’.

A 2011 survey by VMware, a leading provider of cloud software, found that the UK SME sector has been slower than their European counterparts to adopt cloud computing, with only 48 percent of British SMEs adopting it compared with 60 percent of European companies of a similar size. Similarly, research from PeoplePerHour.com found that 74 percent of smaller British companies don’t use cloud computing and 43 per cent of those don’t even understand what cloud computing is.

Now that Britain is back in recession and with the Eurozone crisis deepening by the day, it seems evident that SMEs need to find ways to save money, scale up and find growth opportunities – and cloud computing could be the answer.

Many employees in such companies will already be using cloud computing albeit unwittingly through Hotmail, Facebook and Flickr, without even fully understanding the concept. This lack of knowledge and confusion about cloud computing is a major factor which is hindering adoption as are other concerns about data security, compliance requirements, implementation challenges and service levels.

Many SME business owners are simply nervous about the concept of ‘the cloud’. They might have worries about the perceived costs involved or because the complexity of moving their data into the cloud and, if they aren’t fully aware of its immediate business benefits, why would they?

As SMEs tend not to have IT specialists within their organisation many business owners don’t understand fully the risks versus the rewards. Many are therefore choosing to ignore cloud computing. However, what they don’t realise is that cloud computing is changing the way people do business and by ignoring the potential of this technology to evolve their business they are missing out.

So what are the main benefits? Cost is perhaps the main one. If a company adopts a hosted desktop solution, they will reduce their IT administration, they also won’t need a server in the office or need to maintain a server. All their IT will be managed by a cloud computing provider who will ensure their business has the latest software and security and that all the data is backed up always and that disaster recovery is never an issue. Costs can also be managed carefully. Some providers offer a ‘pay as you go’ model enabling companies to scale up or down in terms of users in line with their needs.

Adopting a hosted desktop solution also enables more flexible working. Employees will have remote access to all their IT systems from anywhere with an internet connection. This makes working from home or on the move very easy. It is ideal for companies that use freelancers or project workers or that have employees who travel a great deal. This flexibility can be especially important at times when it might be difficult for staff to get to work if for example there are transport or weather disruptions or when a one off big event like the London 2012 Olympics occurs which will impact transport. Cloud computing ensures ‘business as usual’ at such times - employees don’t need to be in the office as they are not reliant on the servers, the technology or public transport to work.

Until now, one of the biggest barriers to cloud computing adoption has been fears over security. Many senior managers in business cite this as one of their main concerns; however, having all your companies data hosted in a UK datacentre and managed by professionals can be a far more secure option than managing it internally.

One small business that has benefitted from adopting our hosted desktop solution is Waterloo Quarter BID, a business-led organisation that works with and for businesses in the Waterloo district of London. This small organisation is funded by its members and delivers a range of projects for them aimed at improving their economic performance and their physical trading environment.

Waterloo Quarter embraced cloud computing five years ago when it moved to a larger office in Waterloo. The company wanted to focus its efforts on delivering excellent customer services rather than manage IT administration, perform data back-ups or worry about the server space running out. The organisation was able to move to the new solution quickly and seamlessly without any interruption to the business.

The organisation’s software, security and backups are all now managed remotely and employees are able to work from any location easily. The company tends to employ freelancers so our ‘pay as you go’ system allows them to add new users as and when they need to and manage the costs.

Cloud computing is not going away and SMEs need to think strategically about technology that will improve their business and make life easier for them. With the option to save money, free themselves of an IT department, offer greater working flexibility, plus the added security benefits – it would seem foolish not to embrace ‘the cloud’ with open arms.