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By Richard Reggel, head of cloud services, WeWorkEverywhere

The adoption of smartphones and tablets is undoubtedly playing a part in companies’ adoption of cloud-based solutions.  Whether an organisation is large or small, the ability to work securely anytime, anyplace, anywhere and from any device is becoming the norm.

As one might suspect, employees working in small and medium-sized businesses are increasingly adopting more mobile ways of working and moving away from traditional office space in favour of home offices and cafes.  And when you think of the cost per square foot of office space in premium cities like London and Manchester, it’s no wonder many are choosing the mobile option.  According to a recent study from Sharp, 59 per cent of SMB employees in Europe now work outside of their office, with 46% indicating that working remotely is an essential aspect of their job.

For SMBs, the cloud is far more than just the latest trend. It has become a tool that is fundamentally reshaping how they run their businesses and the results they are able to achieve.   A study by Microsoft found that most 63% of growing businesses believe that cloud technology is critical to their future success.  The same study found that lower costs, increased productivity and more flexibility are key motivators for adopting cloud technology.

However, for SMBs it can be tough to achieve this in a cost-effective, yet robust way.  At the end of the day, SMBs want an IT system that works, and for many, they want someone else to do it.  In much the same way that day-to-day property management is not something that many small – or large – companies want to worry about (and that is why serviced offices have grown in popularity), many businesses are choosing to outsource their IT completely.  And thanks to the cloud, this can be quick and easy to achieve.

For companies that want to focus on growing their business rather than running their IT, a hosted desktop service could be the answer.  Whether your staff work from multiple office locations, from home – or even whilst on holiday – and you want them to have the same experience regardless of the device they are using, a hosted desktop service could be just what you need.

In the same way that you would view a selection of office spaces before signing on the dotted line, you should apply the same due diligence when it comes to choosing the right technology partner.  As you talk to your proposed technology vendor about a move to the cloud, below are key criteria to look for to help you make a more informed decision and, ultimately, choose the optimum solution for your needs.

  • Safety and security – with news of data breaches and IT hacks hitting the headlines every day, it’s no wonder that IT security is a key concern for businesses.  The fact of the matter is that data stored in the cloud is more robust and secure than a small business is likely to be able to implement itself.  Hosted desktops are operated in a professionally monitored environment with automated, encrypted backups, stored safely and securely.
  • Robustness of the environment – in addition to the physical security of the environment, what about the back-up capabilities?  How long is the data stored for before being wiped?  Some back-up services store data for as little as two weeks.  If this isn’t sufficient to ensure you meet any regulatory compliance, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
  • Where and how is your data being held? If your data is sensitive, it might need to be held within a certain jurisdiction such as the UK or EU.  And if data sovereignty is important to you, you will need to know where your data is being stored.  Is there a separation between the service provider and the infrastructure provider?  If you move away from one, can you keep the other?
  • Data migration – if you have data residing on another platform, how easy is it to migrate onto the new platform?  And conversely, how easy is it to get data off that platform if you wanted to?  What happens if you want to move your data to another platform in the future?
  • Cost-effective – every organisation wants controllable IT costs but that can be hard to achieve in a rapidly changing business.  Are there any hidden costs or licensing issues? The beauty of the hosted desktop solution is that you only pay for what you use, so the budget concern is mitigated.

There is no doubt that demand is growing for reliable, scalable and flexible IT systems that can support the rapidly changing needs of today’s small and growing business.  The great news is that there are a number of technology platforms and services that take care of small businesses’ day to day needs and technology progression.