SME Tech

Cloud Solutions for Small Businesses

Is your business on the cloud yet? If not, you’re not only losing out on saving valuable money but also falling back in the race of technological and digital capabilities.

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When you start a business, what are the first things you think about? Cashflow? Competition? Protecting your intellectual property from industrial copycats?

In fact, unless you are planning a technology venture, IT is probably not amongst your top-five priorities. That is a shame, because a particular technology, now firmly established, can help with the cashflow, competition, intellectual property protection, resource efficiency, industrial compliance, general innovation, and more. That technology is the cloud.

Since the nineties, IT managers have been plagued by procurement cycles. Depending on what they were buying, the process could take up to eight months, and unless they were habitual early adopters, six months after their go-live date, their hardware and software could be obsolete, forcing them to start again.

What if you could abolish that model, by moving your software out of your HQ to somewhere else? Here, in this automated wonderland, your IT function benefits from all sorts of invisible efficiencies that protect your data, take cumbersome admin out of your hands, and save you money. This fantasy also bends, grows and shrinks at your command – add a database server here; adopt advanced AI tools there.

That was an accurate, albeit colorful, description of cloud computing. Service providers take your infrastructure – hardware and software – and virtualize it, which means that the software versions of your servers and PCs are hosted in your provider’s powerful data centre. Everything is now a service, and can be supplied – configuration permitting – within minutes. Adieu, procurement headaches. Do you have a need for hardware? Done. Have you a software need? Handled.

Agility and efficiency

As an entrepreneur whose core business is not IT, the appeal of the cloud is clear: you don’t have to wrestle internally with admin, backup, security or procurement. Once you have found a provider that you can trust, tell them what you need, and they provide. This is digital transformation at work.

ATEÏS Middle East is a regional pioneer in fire alarm research, development, and manufacture. In serving the Middle East and Indian markets, the company experienced massive growth of its workforce.

“We have grown multi-fold in the past decade, from two employees to around 80 employees, in four offices spread across the region,” said Hussam Al Haddad, Managing Director, ATEÏS Middle East. “So we needed a solution that would allow all our team members to communicate, and that would bring them together into a single innovation platform.”

As with many companies faced with a daunting procurement undertaking, ATEÏS sought a single solution that would be flexible and scalable. It deployed Office 365, Outlook, Yammer, and OneDrive, in a solution that allowed the company to improve both internal and external engagement, and to automate reliable data access and backup facilities. Team members now connect with one another at will, leading to vast improvements in data access, knowledge-sharing, and decision-making.

Security and compliance

ATEÏS’ story is about delivering an internal efficiency quickly, so that a legacy millstone can be cast off. Other small businesses have more general concerns as they make a move to the cloud. While pursuing efficiency hikes, they may hold back from migration because they have concerns about security. In fact, cloud providers have a greater vested interest in keeping their clients’ digital assets secure than the clients themselves do.

Microsoft invests more than a billion of dollars annually in building infrastructure with multi-layered, multifaceted security.

UAE-based Mobile Doctors 24-7 is a medical call center staffed by internationally trained healthcare practitioners, who provide around-the-clock triage and patient services. Doctors and nurses were required to devote too much time to IT tasks, including admin, which had an impact on the quality of patient care.

The company had concerns about the cyber-security implications of the cloud, but adopted Azure and Office 365, mainly due to the security underpinnings of SSL-TLS 128-bit encryption. Mobile Doctors 24-7’s cloud-based solution is also HIPAA-compliant, an essential element for working in the healthcare industry.

“Seventy per cent of non-life-threatening conditions can be diagnosed by speaking with a doctor over the phone,” said Raouf Khalil, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Mobile Doctors 24-7. “With Office 365 and Azure we can now focus exclusively on this.”

High availability, low-redundancy, and cost-management

Mobile Doctors 24-7 was also able to reduce operational costs by 50%, while gaining 99.9% service availability, and compliance with ISO 127001 and HIPAA.

Cost-saving stories like this can be seen again and again in cloud migration journeys. Providers have the economies of scale that come with high-volume business and share these economies with customers. Under a cloud setup, your SME also shifts from an upfront capital payment (CAPEX) to an easier-to-manage, periodic subscription (OPEX) model for your IT expenditure.

The United Arab Emirates’ Ajman University of Science and Technology needed to ensure 24-7 delivery of web services while operating within a strict budget. The Azure cloud met its service-delivery requirements while delivering high resilience and operational cost savings.

“Azure Cloud gives AUST high availability and removes the burden of hardware maintenance,” said Inas Abousharkh, IT Manager, Ajman University of Science and Technology. “It has saved us immeasurable time as an organization and allowed us to refocus on more value-adding projects.”

Digital transformations start with a decision to embrace the power of cloud, and end with undreamt-of productivity improvements. And then another story begins, where cloud adopters enjoy a new-found flexibility in growth. If your business grows, your cloud grows with it.

The cloud is a network of paths to the future. It has almost mystical potential for small businesses, allowing them to behave like firms with multi-million dollar R&D budgets. It is time to innovate on a shoestring. It is the time of cloud.

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About the author

SPI Group

An integrated platform created to serve entrepreneurs and service providers. SPI engages with over 100,000 Entrepreneurs & Senior decision makers through a unique combination of cutting edge business magazines, high profile B2B summits and conferences, strategic alliances with Govt, business associations and government bodies. SPI also leverages the power of digital marketing and social media.

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