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Cloud computing: Empowering SMEs towards a brighter future

September 24, 2018
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By Vishal Bhat, Vice President of SME Operations (North), Tata Tele Business Services

Indian businesses are rapidly moving to cloud computing as myriad advantages flowing from network of remote servers override the capital cost and regular maintenance of on-site IT infrastructure. However, it is not only big companies that are adopting cloud for flexibility and reducing costs. The country’s thriving small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector, considered to be the backbone of the Indian economy, is warming up to cloud as it provides affordable IT services on a monthly basis.

Essentially, cloud enables companies to store, manage and process data. As the data and applications are hosted remotely, cloud computing offers four key advantages for SMEs: flexibility, scalability, easy accessibility and pay-per-use models. Since only internet access is needed to access cloud services, it is platform independent, and cloud services can be accessed anywhere, and on any device - smart phones, desktops, laptops or other mobility devices. Operating cloud-based software is also extremely flexible because it enables number of applications to be completely web-based.

Further, cloud based services are scalable on demand and are priced on a pay-per-use basis, which essentially means that companies only pay for the services they consume. The pay-per-use model holds significant advantage for SMEs, start-ups and companies with limited budgets as they only need to pay for the services they require. The same can be scaled up easily by paying for more users or additional services as and when the business expands. Thus, with the advent of cloud computing, the companies including SMEs do not need to install application programs on desktops. This in turn translates into huge cost savings as there is no need for storage and processing capabilities. By removing the need for on-premise infrastructure, SMEs can do away with related operational costs such as power and air conditioning, which eventually translate into substantial savings.

There are three cloud computing models: public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud. Given that SMEs operate on tight budgets, public cloud is suitable for most since the service is available on the public internet. However, in case of those SMEs that are operating in sensitive areas with strong privacy or security concerns, private cloud is the right option since it allows the company to own and manage the cloud infrastructure.

In fact, cloud computing has now moved beyond the basic and traditional services of email and data storage, backup, and file sharing. Today, future technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) can equip cloud computing with tremendous power as it enables machines to learn, think, act and make real time decisions. On the other hand, cloud computing makes AI more accessible because most type of hardware people use, including laptops and smartphones, lack the computing power to run many AI applications proficiently and efficiently.

Similarly, both cloud computing and Internet of Things (IoT) work towards increasing efficiency in our day to day tasks. While the IoT generates massive amounts of data, cloud computing facilitates storing this data remotely where it can be accessed immediately. While Big Data has emerged as a key focus area in the past couple of years, most companies find it feasible to access large quantities of Big Data via the cloud.

For SME players, accessing relevant AI applications on the cloud can give a fillip to process automation and eradicate human error. At the same time, the sizeable data emerging from IoT driven automated processes and systems can be stored with the cloud and analysed to further streamline operations and drive efficiency.

While cloud is the panacea for most IT related requirements of the SME sector and it is available at fraction of the cost of an elaborate IT infrastructure, the safety of data remains a prime concern. It is here that tools like Secure Connect come in handy and ensure safety of all information and data stored with the cloud. Secure Connect privatizes public cloud network, thereby providing security of a private network with faster data transfers that help data-heavy enterprise applications operate with ease. Besides safety, cloud offers reliability with 24×7 availability where SMEs can benefit from a large pool of IT resources to manage any technical snag. Since cloud provides round the clock monitoring and quick redressal, SMEs do not need to hire any IT personnel and this further saves them costs.

For SMEs, cloud computing provides access to technology that was previously out of their reach and allows them to compete with both small and large businesses by increasing efficiency and improving the cash flow. It offers them instant access, flexibility, option to scale up and robust security at an affordable cost. With the added advantage of technologies like AI and IoT, cloud is all set to play a critical role in driving profitability and boosting margins for SMEs.

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