Jobs, many people feel, are in short supply. Any sense of growth, a promise in news jobs will inevitably be welcomes with open arms.
This month a report from the IDC claimed that by 2015 cloud computing will have helped to create 8.8 million jobs worldwide.
It is an astonishing figure and for governments and companies looking back at the last four years of economic uncertainty it suggests a brighter future is just around the corner.
But how far is this positivity well-founded? Will jobs growth just happen in the technology community or could hosted services benefit the wider economy as a whole?
One of the biggest benefits that is often quoted is the cloud’s ability to help a company save costs. This comes from saving what is known as “legacy costs”. The IDC report claims that around three quarters of IT spending goes on maintaining legacy systems, that is those that the company has inherited in a new office, those existing within the infrastructure of a new development and have not been upgraded or amended. Part of these costs might include an IT team. What cloud computing offers is the opportunity to streamline this and make it more efficient, more fit for purpose.
Hang on, you might well be thinking, that sounds very much like IT people would lose jobs. And you’d be right. Removing these legacy systems and replacing them with a cloud system, Exchange hosting and the like often means removing the need for an in-house IT team that maintains the old server system. Saves you money but hardly creates new jobs.
Critics of the IDC report claim that because one of the report’s partners is Microsoft it is biased. The tech giant is embedded within the cloud industry so many believe they simply want to sell the benefit of the industry and that they are not being entirely honest.
However, if we examine the potential for the UK workforce, perhaps there is a different perspective to consider.
SMEs are the engine of the economy. There are 4.5 million of them in the UK and they represent 99% of all the enterprise in the UK. They account for almost half of the UK adults in private sector employment – around 14 million – and almost half of private sector turnover (www.fsb.org.uk). It is a huge chunk of the economy and one that is increasingly going to grow.
It is this side of the economy that has been the first to take up cloud computing. SMEs are flexible and adaptable. This helps them survive and prosper in difficult economic conditions and also helps them grow. Instead of using a dilapidated, expensive and an IT system that isn’t fit for their purpose, these are the businesses more likely to invest in a cheaper alternative that suits their needs.
Yes, this might be the sector that rids itself of expensive IT teams but what do they create with the saved cash?
Maintaining legacy systems is not the best use of their resources but identifying areas for growth and focusing saved expenses there is. Whether in the creative sector, communications, media, developing new skills, news areas of development, this is where the investment could go.
Cloud computing makes it much easier for this growth to be international. Using Hosted Exchange and allowing you to share tasks, documents, calendars and emails means that new employees don’t need to be in the same office, they could be anywhere in the world. This offers even more opportunity for growth particularly in those areas of the world economy earmarked for expansion, like Latin America, China and India.
Using a flexible IT system that meets the needs of businesses might seem like a small step, compared with the potential benefits, but it represents a seismic shift in business attitude which could end up contributing significantly to the economy.