Cloud-based solutions have already become an everyday part of our lives. We use cloud applications at every turn, often without even realising it. We may use an application on our computer or phone, and not think or care that the reason it works is because it’s operating in the cloud (e.g., Google Maps, Waze, Spotify, Shazam, Slack, etc.). In the same way, cloud-based applications may be brought into a small business, often without the user realising it. But, one thing is clear: users and the company they work for benefit tremendously from the hidden value the cloud brings. The cloud model is a stronger, more flexible, and commercially-beneficial way for a small business to access a business technology, function, or service.
#1: Reliability and Reduced IT Overhead
The most obvious benefit of cloud applications for a small business is that they deliver greater reliability with less effort. A cloud service is managed, maintained (via automatic updates), backed-up, and secured by the cloud provider, instead of requiring internal IT staff.
This benefit reduces risk of outages, lost data and security breaches. Cloud vendors have far greater resources in terms of hardware, fault tolerance and expertise than the average small business does. And the economies of scale in having that single cloud provider serve hundreds or thousands of clients means you get far better service quality and resources than you could afford on your own.
Think of it like living in an apartment block. You might have access to shared resources like a swimming pool, gym, shop and concierge, all of which would be beyond your means if you had to pay for them individually. You benefit from pooling resources with the other tenants in the building.
#2: Agility and Flexibility
Cloud-based applications provide your small business with better agility and flexibility. A worker can easily be given the ability to work remotely or on the move. In a smaller business, there is often more reliance on a single individual for a process: perhaps you only have one person handling payroll, or just one or two on IT support. You need a way to ensure these critical resources can keep working even when they can’t reach the office or need to work from a different location at short notice.
The cloud makes this easy, delivering applications and data to wherever employees are and on whatever device they are using. For example, they can access customer data via a CRM mobile app or call a customer using the cloud phone provider’s desktop application. And by providing a business DDI number for that employee, a returned customer call can instantly locate and contact them, even if they’re on the move. Cloud applications let employees and customers interact as they normally would, regardless of the situation and locale.
#3: Cost Reduction and Savings
Cloud applications deliver commercial value to both a small business’ top and bottom lines, allowing them to reduce or remove capital, ongoing, and unexpected costs, and increase revenue. Instead of purchasing hardware and software (CAPEX) up front you simply have an ongoing subscription (OPEX) that includes all ongoing upgrades and maintenance. And your organization is freed from unexpected outages, repairs, and the stress these situations cause.
You may also find that laptops utilising cloud applications have an extended lifespan, with active use increasing from the traditional 3-5 years to 5-7 years. What’s more, you can replace laptops with less expensive, thinner models, as they employees may now simply need browser access and no longer require that their laptops host and run heavy applications.
The cloud also removes the need to have localised space and power for the equipment you would have required, such as servers and, in the case of phone systems, PBXs (Private Branch Exchange Systems). This dramatically lowers costs by eliminating requirements for providing physical and localised maintenance, power, and security for these devices.
By removing the locality, ownership, and responsibility for managing the systems, you also reduce the heavy lifting required of your in-house or local IT provider. In terms of telecoms, this can be a tremendous relief! So often IT has vocalised to me that the telephone system was forced upon them—to fit into IT better than elsewhere— but that they had never felt competent to do a good job managing it. You could argue that the systems best lifted to the cloud are the complex ones that smaller firms likely will lack the expertise to do a good job of running by themselves.
#4: Customer Experience
Customers increasingly expect to engage with a business across multiple channels and 86% of customers expect to switch between communication channels without issue (Source: McKinsey). With this in mind, the ability to empower employees with access to all data and applications anywhere, on any device, and at any time becomes even more important. When a customer issue becomes time-dependent and most urgent, the channel they still tend to use is voice conversation. The ability to speak to someone live who will take control of the outcome is paramount. Customers don’t expect an instant reply from email communications or from web form submissions. Live chat can show the customer an expected wait time or that it is not available. Social Media Direct Messaging offers no expectation and, in fact, often goes unmonitored, leaving a customer with no response.
Empowering an employee to best serve a customer quickly is key in a world where customers are more fickle and demanding than ever—often influenced by the high bar set by the world of Amazon and Uber-type services. We all want immediate resolution: a way to quickly get it done and move on. As we saw during the pandemic, the ability to efficiently resolve problems can be undermined by inflexible technologies that tie users to their physical office desk in order to communicate and have the information they need to serve the customer.
Cloud systems remove the physical barrier of being tied to equipment and location, increasing the ease of collaboration between employees and with customers. Research reports that these advantages can deliver productivity gains of more than 40% (Source: Salesforce).
Cloud Investment Brings Substantial Benefits to Small Businesses
Cost-saving metrics will vary from cloud service to service, of course, but are often quite considerable. For example, small businesses that adopt cloud-based telephony solutions can gain additional savings from call routing capabilities that can decrease the cost of local calls by up to 40% and international calls by as much as 90% (Source: tech.co)
You can also attract and onboard new staff more easily. Cloud-based solutions give you the flexibility to easily onboard new staff, give them faster access to the technology they need, and provide them with a hybrid working environment and location policy. This can help you widen your pool of candidates, reduce recruitment costs, and offer a more attractive working model to attract new workers. These peripheral and ‘softer’ benefits add up in a post-pandemic working world where millennials and Gen Z’s are seeking a different employer profile.
This post was sponsored by Mitel, but the opinions are my own and don’t necessarily represent Mitel’s positions or strategies.