In the decade since cloud computing first emerged, its influence has spread far beyond early take-up from big organisations, to mid-tier and small businesses. With the latest research from the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) revealing that the overall cloud adoption rate in the UK now stands at 88 per cent, there are certainly no signs of it slowing down. In fact, some research suggests that we’ll see it more than double globally over the next four years.

We’re also seeing more technological advances in the cloud and integration of artificial intelligence (AI), meaning companies are being empowered to make the most of their data to differentiate and find new revenue streams.

However, as with the growing popularity of any technological developments, concerns still remain. The Harvey Nash / KPMG 2016 CIO survey lists integration with architecture as the main challenge to cloud adoption, closely followed by data loss and privacy risks. There’s also a certain level of apprehension and confusion among businesses venturing into the cloud, prompting questions such as; ‘What exactly are the benefits?’ and ‘What option do I go with?’.


The benefits of cloud hosting

To put it simply, cloud hosting offers ultimate flexibility. Whether it’s scaling up or down the cloud capacity, agility is at the core of the service, which not only gives a competitive advantage but also improves responsiveness and adaptability. Remember, a company’s infrastructure grows with the business, not the other way around, which minimises hefty and unnecessary costs.

The cloud also means reduced IT costs, including hardware and software maintenance, as well as training for IT staff. It accelerates product development and innovation by offering better analytics, for example, which has led towards a seismic shift in understanding customer experience.


Where to start with the cloud

When looking to implement cloud hosting services, businesses must take a holistic and flexible approach. Remember, one size doesn’t fit all – it’s all about what works for your business. Ask yourself: ‘What are the specific needs of the business?’ and ‘How will you integrate cloud technology into your existing infrastructure?’

As a starting point, a workshop should take place to give a framework to audit what’s already in place, scope and identify pressure points, and ultimately implement a solution to resolve them. There are dedicated tools available to aid this process, such as SysGroup’s TechWorkshop, which creates an agile, agnostic approach to tech infrastructure. Working with the cloud experts at SysGroup, TechWorkshop activity enables businesses to communicate their technical and commercial objectives into a clear set of requirements. From this, a tailored solution is put in place, ensuring the specific needs of each application are addressed within the cloud.

It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of intelligent technologies and services that the market has to offer, so it’s important not to lose focus of what you are actually looking to achieve. It’s crucial, therefore, to have a strategic plan in place based on specific needs and challenges before implementing a cloud solution.


Selecting the best solution  

Once your plan is in place, it’s time to select a platform that is best suited to the needs of the business. There are a number of solutions to choose from, including:

  • Private cloud gives users maximum control and security over their data and information at all times. It is guaranteed to meet legal and regulatory requirements, giving businesses the ability to build automation into service provision.
  • Public cloud meets the demand for flexibility, scalability and efficiency. Offering the flexibility of monthly payments, this option is cost-effective, agile and can scale on demand.
  • Hybrid cloud is the most accessible and agile of all the cloud hosting solutions, making it the most practical method for most organisations. If the requirement is to support multiple private and public cloud platforms, services and solutions, a hybrid IT approach is the easiest way to integrate them with existing infrastructure, applications and data.

But it’s not just down to selecting the right cloud solution, partnering with the right managed service provider is equally as important in achieving cloud success. A service provider should be solution-focused, educating its customers and aligning the solution with the right technologies and requirements for that business. Reputation and security status should also be assessed, and that’s why SysGroup considers things such as PCI accreditation, ISO and GDPR compliance.


Looking ahead

The benefits of moving to the cloud demonstrate that, for the majority of businesses, it is a question of when, rather than if. After all, according to KPMG, 74% of tech CFOs said that cloud computing would have the most measurable impact on their business in 2017.

The impact of the cloud is – and will continue to be – far-reaching simply because of the unprecedented flexibility and agility it offers businesses, and its potential to disrupt traditional assumptions about investment in IT infrastructure.

In the years to come, cloud hosting will continue to push the boundaries and serve businesses operating beyond the tech sectors. The benefits will continue to grow and emerging technologies, such as AI, will have a huge role to play in this. But perhaps most significantly of all, this technology will give smaller businesses the tools to invest in developments previously considered beyond their resources, while improving speed, capacity and greater levels of data security.

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