By Stephen Thomas
Although 99% of businesses and 60% of the private sector workforce was accounted for by SME last year (this is explained further in this article by The Guardian), starting up and maintaining a healthy turnover is still as tough as it has ever been. Competing with the bigger businesses in any sector that deals in IT infrastructure seems almost impossible given the level of investment in hardware and expertise required to even stand a chance.
If two businesses were to compete for a B2B client contract, 9 times out of 10 the biggest fish wins. However, the playing field has been somewhat levelled with the advent of cloud computing within the SME sector. This allows for the best chance for the business with the best quality service to win, rather just the business with the largest IT infrastructure.
Managed cloud hosting as a competitive tool
Traditionally, only bigger businesses could cover customers and clients with the necessary infrastructure, but managed cloud hosting vendors are now offering a viable option for SMEs to gain access to that same level of infrastructure, software and technical expertise as established by the big businesses.
Modern cloud vendors offer, as part of cloud hosting, co-location online storage. This is basically a backup of all the files and data that your business uses, hosted in multiple locations around the world.
Hosting in this way means that should one server in a data centre that is hosting your business’s files fail, it’s not a problem because there are other servers in that data centre that hold a mirror image of your files as a backup of the backup. If the whole data centre goes down (it can happen, such as a fire breaking out or some such disaster striking), then this is still not a problem because there will be a duplicate of that data centre with a mirror image of all the data stored in it somewhere else around the world that you will be able to access should you need to restore a lost backup of your data in a pinch.
In short, co-location online storage is the safest way of backing up essential business (or client) data and this is exactly what big businesses offer their clients and what SME is missing. With the existence of cloud vendors, SMEs now have the ability to rent this infrastructure as and when they need it, and only the amount that’s required on a pay-as-you-go basis – making it cost effective and business-reactive (i.e. if you win new business you can just get more, if you lose business you can downsize), resulting in the ability to compete with much bigger competition that previously possible.
How Software and Infrastructure as a service link in with storage
Closely tied-in with the elasticated storage functionality offered by cloud vendors is the software and infrastructure, both of which can be leveraged to gain a competitive advantage.
Again, traditionally big businesses had the competitive advantage over SMEs simply because of their large scale infrastructure (i.e. high end processing power and specialist IT equipment) and specialist software (and the ability to purchase software on demand when needed). However, cloud vendors are now able flick a switch and deploy bespoke software and processing power that an SME might need for a set period of time to get a specific job done, for SMEs, all within a set budget for a finite period of time. This all happens completely on-demand for the SME associated with the cloud vendor; in conjunction with the flexible storage offered, they make a potent tool for leveraging a competitive edge irrespective of the size of the business, or the size of its competition.
About the author:
Stephen Thomas works with the 6 Degrees Group as a content developer and PR executive specialising in cloud technology.