Is our focus on the cost savings of cloud computing hiding the true benefit?
Read any article that advocates the adoption of the cloud and in the first one or two paragraphs, inevitably they will discuss how much money a business will save. IT costs have spiralled out of control, we’re told. Keeping up to date with current technology, having to fix a server that crashes, hiring an expensive team who are the only members of staff you know how to fix the bugs in your computer or protect you from an email virus; implement Cloud computing and these are costs your business will no longer need to carry.
Yet by only focusing on the cost-savings do we ignore the bigger benefits of the Cloud?
In truth, a move to hosted Exchange or something similar reflects a sea-change in attitude which is doing more to effect the behaviour of business, rather than its cash-flow. That is not to say it is not cheaper, but the way it impacts how business works is probably a more fundamental one.
A survey conducted Cloud Alliance asked small and medium businesses why they’d taken up the Cloud. Price was important, the respondents said, but in fact it was the ability to collaborate which impacted on them more.
Inevitably, because the survey was undertaken for Google the answers are likely to be pro Cloud. Their main concerns were data security and end user privacy. They want to make sure the service works when they need it, rather than just opting for something cheap.
Should this be a huge surprise?
Businesses are not the same as consumers. When we’re shopping and browsing as customers we’re more focused on price because we’re likely to be thinking about household bills and budget, rather than making an investment. The approach is not the same for businesses. We don’t shop like a consumer when we buy for our company, we buy thinking about the impact it will have on how we work, whether it will make us more streamlined and flexible, whether it will help us do a better job.
The fact that business is entering into a contract with Cloud providers thinking about the bigger picture shows a real determination to offer clients more. Business wants to collaborate, it wants it’s IT to be an opportunity, not a hindrance and wants moving to the Cloud to create opportunity, as well as solving a problem and thinking about cash flow.
So what does it say about the Cloud industry that it sells on price, rather than service? Should Cloud providers along with Exchange hosting re-sellers be focusing on the impact on business, on day to day activity and the service that can be offered to clients, instead of how cheap it is? This survey would certainly suggest so.
If business purely focused on income streams then their ability to see opportunity and drive itself forward would cease to exist. Flexibility and innovation are key for small businesses, particularly those who have begun as start-ups during a recession and are used to cutting their cloth accordingly. They are seeing the Cloud as the next step in their development and evolution, rather than simply an opportunity to cut cost. Providers should be seen to do the same.