Globally, cloud services are on the rise and organisations large and small are either using the cloud or are planning to, according to Rightscale’s 2018 State of the Cloud Report. Closer to home, the Cloud Africa 2018 Report had similar findings, with ninety percent of South African companies saying that they had increased spending on cloud computing last year, and over eighty percent committing to increasing cloud spend this year.
Looking specifically at cloud adoption in the small to medium enterprise market, a report by Xero indicates that although adoption is prevalent and small businesses using cloud are seeing the benefits, a whopping 56% of surveyed organisations are still not using the cloud. Furthermore, more than 40% have skipped cloud provisioning in their business plans for this year altogether. The likelihood is that many businesses are still unaware of the benefits of cloud and what it involves.
In the broadest terms, cloud computing is nothing more (or nothing less) than a place where data files can be stored and easily accessed by anyone no matter where they are. For businesses, this is an invaluable aid, but most especially to those who have workers across the globe.
The cloud offers many benefits, but for small businesses where every spent cent counts and maximising outputs are crucial, these benefits are even greater. However, cost savings are not the only benefits of cloud technology. Xero’s report also reflects that almost 50% of surveyed businesses experienced improved efficiency, while more than a third said that the cloud improved their business continuity.
Small to medium enterprises typically handle and store a lot of client information, however many still rely on traditional storage methods like keeping data on one’s computer, a flash or external hard drive, or on a server. Small businesses are also at risk of data loss, whether due to malware or due to human error – it’s imperative that these businesses realise the importance of their data and the consequences of losing it.
Here, we explore five industries where small to medium enterprises can most benefit from the cloud.
Doctor’s rooms, clinics and medical suites store arguably some of the most sensitive personal information around. Patient records, medical histories and medication data are just some of the files that these businesses have to keep.
Although electronic, central data repositories are becoming more prevalent in this industry, in order for medical history to be accessible regardless of which doctor a patient visits, many practices still rely on cardboard hard copy folders to store their patient information. Hard copy data can be convenient, but it raises the risk of misplaced files, lost data and patient information ending up in the wrong hands or seen by unauthorised eyes. It also means that a new doctor needs to contact previous doctors for medical histories, which wastes time.
The cloud can provide a platform for data to be securely stored – and backed up – for easy access by authorized individuals. A doctor with permission to access patient records can quickly pull up a patient’s medical history. Beyond the ability to easily view a patient’s prior treatments, doctors can also more easily identify patterns which may assist with diagnoses.
Bookkeepers and Accounting firms
Bookkeepers are trusted to keep and maintain clients’ financial records, which may include personal and company financial data, as well as payroll information and banking details. These businesses are often soft targets for cybercriminals seeking to access their clients’ financial data for theft or ransom purposes.
The cloud provides the ideal platform for bookkeepers to securely store and back up their clients’ data, allowing for easy, central access while protecting data from cybercriminals. Although no platform is 100% secure against cybercrime, the cloud is safer than hosting data on an internal server or laptop and offers the added benefit of backing data up so that, in the event of a data breach or loss, the business can still access their client’s information.
The risk of losing a client’s data extends beyond having to redo hours of work, or request records from the client again. It boils down to reputation. Financial businesses are expected and legislated to protect their clients’ data, and the consequences include losing business and paying penalties.
Legal businesses handle sensitive information such as divorce decrees, case files, and – most importantly – evidence records to prove cases. If data is not in order or is lost, it can cost a lawyer his case entirely. Beyond losing in court due to not having access to the records required, showing up to court without the required paperwork can mean the case is dismissed altogether. It can also lead to a lawyer losing their license to practice and being disbarred.
Storing and backing up on the cloud, as well as leveraging cloud-based applications for data management, can quite literally save lives if a lawyer needs to access documents proving a client’s innocence. It also makes a lawyer’s life far easier, giving them access to required information from anywhere, and at any time.
Insurance brokers deal with a vast amount of personal information on a daily basis. From claim forms to asset registries, to wills and testaments, and medical health in the case of medical insurance, it’s imperative that brokers not only keep data safe, but are able to easily retrieve what they need, when they need it.
For this reason, many insurers will benefit from centralised cloud data storage and backup solutions. The cloud offers a safe, compliant and accessible platform which then enables future processes such as online form completion, bot interactions and automated client services. Customer experience is a large component for insurers, who rely on offering the best service to retain clients.
Data is gold to marketers, who use information on a target market for direct marketing campaigns and customised client interaction. Proper cloud-based data management can leverage analytics and artificial intelligence mechanisms to help pinpoint client desires, so marketers can target them directly.
Marketing companies are expected to be digital in today’s economy. Those who rely on traditional or paper-based data storage mechanisms will end up falling behind their competitors who are jumping on digital cloud trends, ultimately going out of business.
By Marius Maritz, Department Manager for CloudProtect at Gabsten Technologies