These days, if you don’t invest in IT, there’s a very real danger that you could be left behind in the increasingly competitive business arena. A temperamental server will hold you back eventually, whereas cloud-based solutions allow you to capitalise on the benefits of agile technology to enhance business resilience, make key efficiencies and improve business performance. You’ll also have more time to focus on core competences and plan for the future.

Taking the decision to say goodbye to a server and its inherent limitations can be a big step for an SME, but you don’t have to be an IT expert to work in the cloud and take control of your IT and data in a way that is sustainable financially.

Serverless economics

Irrespective of the size of your business, cloud computing delivers greater flexibility, added security and improved mobility, all of which results in enhanced business performance. A robust platform that incorporates not only Microsoft’s latest operating system for PC, laptop, tablet and mobile devices and Microsoft Office, but also a range of high end security and management tools, Microsoft 365 is the smarter way to operate.

Let’s take the example of a data compliant server to suit 15 users over 60 months, including operating system, email, Microsoft Office, power/cooling, warranty and installation. Your business would face a major upfront cost of around £16,500. With cloud-based solutions, the fee comes in at around £16.00 per month per employee and is scalable over time as your business grows.

Given the capital investment involved in purchasing a new server, it can be tempting to try and stretch out the typical five-year server life to seven or even ten years. Doing so means you will miss out on advances in technology and, more importantly, it’s a huge risk. If the system falls over in year eight, you will be worse off, having to spend serious money to resolve an IT disaster.

True flexibility

The cloud is location independent so you get the same experience anywhere in the world. Microsoft 365 offers genuine flexibility in terms of remote collaborative working, enabling a team of people in different places to simultaneously edit and share documents in real time. Since all documents are private by default, you decide if and when to share them with colleagues and/or external business associates. And with Microsoft Teams included in the IT solution, you can message clients and engage in video conferencing whenever it suits you.

By definition, working in the cloud means your business is not constrained by geography. Employees don’t have to work from an office in a particular town or city, so you can spread the net far and wide to recruit the best talent wherever they happen to live.

The cloud is device agnostic too, offering a full suite of applications for all technologies. Since it operates on any device with an internet connection, you don’t have to go to the expense of switching all employees to Apple or Android and incurring the additional training costs this would involve.

Given the significant upfront costs of buying a new server, you’re forced to estimate not only what capacity your company needs right now, but also what you expect its requirements to be in four, six or ten years’ time. Since the cloud is a scalable IT solution, you pay as your business grows. Technologically speaking, the cloud is always up to date and will meet changing needs as your business expands.

Depend on the cloud

When contemplating changing their IT set-up most businesses want reassurance that the new system will be reliable. Working in the cloud means you’re relying on the infrastructure of Microsoft, which boasts uptime of 99.999% supported by a financially backed service level agreement. How many times has your server gone down and left you without access to email and applications?

Invariably, businesses ask how they will access the cloud if their internet connection fails. This really warrants a discussion about broadband stability, since any business should be taking steps to achieve a solid broadband infrastructure, but with Internet cafes, mobile phones and the ability to tether laptops to mobiles, getting online these days shouldn’t be a problem.

Far and away the biggest concern that SMEs raise about working in the cloud is security and, not unreasonably, they want to know where their data ‘lives’. Microsoft has built data centres across the globe, including Cardiff, Durham and London, so for UK-based operations data is protected by European Union law.

In 2018 some 46% of UK businesses were subject to some form of cyber-attack so how vulnerable is the cloud to malicious threats? Viruses, malware and ransomware are typically transmitted by sharing emails or clicking unsafe web links so, as you would expect, anti-spam and anti-malware protection are included in Microsoft 365 as standard. However, Microsoft 365 offers so much more.

Five layers of security

A completely integrated platform, Microsoft 365 incorporates five layers of security with built-in privacy and compliance tools to safeguard businesses from external threats such as ransomware and data leaks. This is coupled with proactive monitoring in real time to ensure the highest level of protection, which is reassuring for businesses that employ the least tech savvy individuals.

For example, email attachments are scanned in real time to detect malware and prevent system users from clicking through to unsafe websites. Even if someone does click, Microsoft 365’s Advanced Threat Protection Safe Links feature warns against navigating to the site or blocks the attempt. It is also easy to configure email so that you can only reply to the sender and messages cannot be forwarded to anyone else.

Whilst its benefits to business performance are many and varied, SMEs often see remote working as a cause for concern in terms of data security. Microsoft 365 incorporates a series of protocols to protect data on mobile devices so it cannot be accessed by unauthorised individuals. The technology prevents staff from saving business data to personal apps and forwarding it to their personal email account or other unauthorised location. And if an employee leaves the business or a mobile device is stolen, data is easily wiped to maintain business resilience.

High-performing IT support

Even when SMEs acknowledge the advantages of cloud computing, they still worry about making a mistake and having to cope with an IT system that is not fit for purpose.

All businesses are not the same so a ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t work. That’s why the seamless route from outdated, restrictive server to agile working in the cloud is to partner with a reputable managed service provider (MSP). To achieve the best results, any MSP worth their salt will conduct an in-depth assessment of your business before proposing a customised and cost-effective solution geared to helping you achieve your business objectives. MSPs are experts who know the cloud inside-out and their main aim should be to ensure you reap the maximum reward from your investment.

Talk to a reputable MSP to find out if it’s time to ditch your serve and work in the cloud, saving you time and money whilst reducing risk and enhancing business performance. You’ll get an honest answer, complete transparency and no jargon.