Speaking at an online seminar, Vodafone’s head of small and medium business, Stephanie Howe, and Daniel Iversen, head of solutions and architecture for online file-sharing service Dropbox, agreed that cloud-based systems can be of great benefit to SMEs.
The seminar examined how how businesses can “have better operational agility, become better connected to their employees [and] deliver better engagement with customers” through cloud technology.
Four major benefits of cloud-based systems were then presented:
1. Working from anywhere
According to Ms Howe, cloud-based system are accessible from anywhere, provided there is an internet connection.
“One of the things we know is 48 per cent of small business owners have worked from cafes and restaurants,” she said.
“And … 29 per cent are also working from some slightly more obscure places like their car; like the school car park while they're waiting for their kids.
“The need to be able to work from anywhere is really prevalent in Australian small business owners.”
Mr Iversen added that cloud technologies enable you and your staff to work from any device.
“You're no longer limited to your computer at your desk. How much more could you do with all the information, if you had it at your fingertips no matter where you were, and how much time can you save by doing little tasks and communicating while you're on the go?” he said.
2. Providing a better customer experience
Cloud-based systems also allow for better interactions with customers, according to Mr Iversen.
“Providing great customer experiences is one of the last key sustaining differentiators that you have as a business,” he said.
“We've seen as well that acquiring new customers costs – in terms of effort and [expenses] – many times [more than] retaining existing customers.
“Being able to much more easily share with your customers, communicate with your customers, be much more responsive to your customers, and improve their experience – and not only in an intangible way, but actually improving the customer experience – can even improve your bottom line in a very tangible way as well.”
3. Improving productivity inside your business
“With cloud solutions, you can spend less time on inefficient communications,” said Mr Iversen.
“You don't want to spend time searching for the right kind of file, or making sure everybody's up to date.
“Also, for small businesses, you can improve business continuity and resilience, so by storing your information safely in the cloud, you are less likely to lose information [or] have it compromised.
“It improves not only the way you can access and use the information, but it actually decreases the risk on your business.”
Ms Howe also pointed out that there can actually be security benefits of not having sensitive data stored on devices.
“There's a huge anxiety around losing your smartphone, and people equate that to the fear of losing your wallet and your cash,” she said.
“If you've got information stored in the cloud, that can help alleviate that anxiety.
“You'll lose your physical device, yes, but you've still got the information you can access and have control over.”
4. Lowering your operational costs
Mr Iversen pointed out how cloud-based software has lessened the impact of set-up costs.
“With cloud solutions, you get something that works out of the box, something you don't have to customise, and it really has driven a whole new way of pragmatism in the way that people view IT solutions,” he said.
“It also reduces your operational costs because there's nothing you've got to keep updated. The vendor takes care of managing the software for you, keeping your data safe, keeping everything up to date and available when you need.”
Ms Howe said: “I myself am a working mother, and through cloud storage and being able to access files whenever and wherever I can, it unlocks that opportunity.”
She added that cloud-based systems can benefit people who are semi-retired or who want to work part-time, as well as those in remote locations.