Cloud computing is set to transform the way that small South African businesses consume ICT services within the next two years. That’s according to Tim Walter, executive head of marketing at Nashua Mobile.
Walter says the high price and erratic quality of bandwidth in South Africa are the two of the major factors that have held back cloud computing. With the arrival of innovative and affordable data products such as uncapped ADSL products aimed at SMEs, this picture is rapidly changing.
Cloud computing allows SMEs to access technology applications as online services provided by telecommunication service providers rather than needing to install them on their PCs and servers. These services are billed for per-user, per-month.
He says that the benefits of cloud computing are hard to ignore since it can drive down IT operational and capital costs for small businesses while giving them richer functionality and more business flexibility.
Walter points out that many small businesses are already using some cloud services such as hosted email, hosted mobile messaging services such as the BlackBerry service, and cloud storage solutions like Dropbox without being aware of it.
But in the next phase of the market’s development, they will start moving large and more complex applications to the cloud as they seek ways to improve efficiency and save money. Examples may include line of business applications and hosted PBX solutions.
Says Walter: “Cloud computing is irresistible for a small business because it turns something that used to be capital expenditure into a running cost, freeing up precious cash for other uses. It can also help them to reduce the amount of money they spend on IT support from internal staff or external service providers.”
Because the applications are hosted on a service provider’s infrastructure, the SME may not need to buy and run its own servers anymore. What’s more, it will be freed of the headache of keeping applications patched and up to date.
“Another benefit lies in the fact that they can expand their use of cloud services when they need to,” says Walter. “They don’t need a lot of server capacity that sits idle outside of month-end and they can easily add more users to the system as the business grows.”
With the trend towards remote and mobile work, the fact that applications and data stored in the cloud can be accessed securely from anywhere in the world is another plus, Walter notes.
Mobile workers can plug right into the data they need while they’re at a customer’s site and capture data or orders without coming back to the office.
“In many cases, a cloud-based service will be more secure and feature-rich than a system a SME could build itself,” says Walter. The reason for this is that the costs of the infrastructure are shared across the customer base, meaning that the service provider can afford software and hardware out of the average SME’s price range.
Nashua Mobile believes that cloud computing will become mainstream in the SME market within the next year and is working to offer a range of hosted products in the second half of 2012, says Walter.
“With mainstream software vendors like Microsoft aggressively pushing the cloud, it will be the computing model of the future,” he adds. According to market researcher, IDC 63 percent of South African organisations are already investing in some form of cloud technology or plan to do so in the near future.