Embracing the cloud - are your customers ready?
The world is changing rapidly, and if the last 12 months have shown anything, it's that we always need to be ready for the unexpected - economically, politically and, increasingly, technologically. As I outlined in my recent keynote speech at the Channel Leaders event, the giant leaps we're making in the tech world offer us more exciting capabilities than ever before - but this comes with its own challenges.
For example, consider your smartphone. A few years ago, a 4GB or 8GB capacity would offer all you ever needed. But now, 64GB, 128GB, even 256GB devices aren't enough. So where next? Arguably, the answer is unlimited storage - thanks to the cloud. But this solution isn't just about breaking free from the constraints of a device's physical limitations. For businesses, it promises to transform every aspect of how they operate.
Putting the customer first
We recently asked our SME customers their opinions of the cloud and the migration to new digital solutions, and you can see the full findings in our latest infographic. But what really stood out to me was that while the dependence on the cloud is increasing hugely, there remains a widespread lack of awareness about what the technology can offer, as well as worries about exactly what it will mean for a business.
Reliability is the biggest concern for SMEs when thinking about the cloud, with this cited by 38 per cent of respondents as a key consideration. Indeed, at the recent Channel Leaders event, a lot of the questions I was asked centred around the need to improve network availability and performance in order to support digital transformations, so it's clear being able to access a fast, reliable network will be essential in standing out from competitors and giving customers the service they demand.
Given that any cloud deployment will fail unless it's underpinned by strong connectivity, this is not an unreasonable concern. However, with the right networking partner to support businesses, it need not be a worry.
Businesses are asking for your support
Our survey showed nearly half of SMEs (45 per cent) would like ongoing network-centric management from their cloud partners, so companies that provide this and put their customers first with their level of support stand well-placed to succeed in the ever-changing digital world.
Another interesting finding was that many businesses may not even be aware that they're already using the cloud. When asked about their current activities, less than half of respondents (48 per cent) claimed to be using cloud technology. However, when asked about specific services, such as Dropbox or Office 365, nearly three-quarters of firms (72 per cent) stated they were using these.
However, many of these deployments are likely to take place without the oversight of the IT department, as individual employees come up with their own workarounds to bypass restrictive policies. This can potentially open up businesses to a range of security risks, which is why it's vital that firms take control of their cloud usage - which will clearly happen with or without their authorisation.
Partners have a key role to play here in educating their customers and helping them develop a formal cloud strategy. Offering their expertise can help customers overcome any worries they have and make the process as easy as possible.
So what is your cloud opportunity?
Research by Ovum shows that by 2019, 80 per cent of businesses will be cloud-dependent - and that means around 1.5 million UK firms, from SMEs up to the largest enterprises, will be moving to the cloud over the next two years. But as our infographic shows, many of these will need expert help to make sure the transition is a success.
Less than a third of business we asked (29 per cent) said they felt confident about moving to the cloud, while 17 per cent expressed concerns over the operations and 35 per cent felt they would need support with the migration process.
What this suggests is that although customers understand the value of the cloud, they worry about the potential pitfalls they may encounter when embracing the technology. And this represents a perfect opportunity for channel partners to step in and offer a helping hand.
Being able to deliver first-class connectivity, with guaranteed reliability to keep them connected to the cloud at all times, will be essential for partners when it comes to helping SMEs handle the digital revolution.