An estimated 44 trillion gigabytes of data will be generated by the year 2020. Is your company ready to take advantage of this avalanche of data? Does your organization have the right skill set to navigate such a large volume of dataset and leverage it to your advantage?

A New Way of Doing Business?

Most definitely! We live in the age of data. Torrents of data generated every passing minute. This is a huge differentiator from the way of doing business decades ago. The net effect is two-fold; it presents both an opportunity and a challenge. An opportunity in that the vast amounts of data present you with insights of the business process and the behavior of your clients, making predictions data-based and accurate. The challenge is that the data generated is not only vast but also complex, making it difficult to manipulate using traditional tools and skillset.

Wha is Cloud Computing?

Simply put: using someone else servers (mostly remote) to store, manage and process your data instead of using your own servers. Most cloud servers are managed by public cloud service providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure among others. So why use the cloud? These companies allow you to provision servers in a matter of minutes, create efficiencies at scale. Additionally, they offer storage and security at a reduced cost, leveraging on economies of scale. It is inherent in most public cloud service providers to store data in different servers. As a result, data redundancy, high availability, and failover are taken care of. Employees can also access data from anywhere at any time as a result of this distribution of data across different servers in different regions. Essentially, with cloud computing, the heavy lifting is done by the cloud service provider in providing infrastructure, storage, networking, security, power, and availability. All a business needs is to concentrate on their core business. The level of engagement of the client is determined by the kind of cloud offering they choose; Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) or Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

Leverage Cloud for Small Business Growth

Research data by Deloitte shows that organizations using the cloud grow 26% and are 21% more profitable than organizations that do not. The report goes further to state that this does not apply to startups alone: 79% of mature companies rely on cloud to gain access to and exposure to new markets and revenue streams. And that is not all. Companies that use the cloud have a higher rate of innovation compared to those that do not. This is in part attributed to the fast-moving market landscape as well as having the right tools for building a culture of efficiency, collaboration, and trust.

The age of cloud has also led to the emergence of shadow IT; when a business tech does not measure up, employees resort to bringing their personal tech to the workplace in what is famously known as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). This creates vulnerabilities and opportunities to embrace the change of culture in collaboration such that all data for the company is not tied to a single computer of one of the employees.

Just to be clear, the cloud does not just benefit small and mid-sized businesses. The cloud supports business growth at different stages;

  • Starting up: cloud precipitates growth and sustainability with limited resources and cutting out the need to have up-front capital investment.
  • Achieving rapid growth: the Deloitte report indicates 90% of small and mid-sized businesses have been able to scale and grow faster because of the cloud. The tools of the cloud are flexible and able to adapt to the needs of the business as it grows.
  • Restarting growth: cloud enables mature businesses to optimize and invigorate their innovative edge.

A number of benefits come about from the use of cloud. These include;

  • Cost: an IDC report indicates businesses can instantly reduce their IT spend by 54% by moving to cloud-based solutions.
  • Mobility: Maintain and improve productivity of your employees who work on the go or are out of the office most of the time.
  • Security: contrary to popular belief, cloud computing is indeed more secure than in-house traditional IT. Google Cloud, for instance, employs more than 750 security engineers. Your business can take advantage of their skills at a fraction of the cost of hiring full time security professionals. It’s all about economies of scale.
  • Workforce: it’s all about collaboration. Employees can work closely together, accessing and working on similar documents in real time without the need for hundreds of emails with attachments.
  • Choice: some cloud service providers offer flexibility and interoperability to overcome vendor lock-in.

A Case of G Suite

G Suite is the enterprise email and collaboration offering from Google. It’s so simple to use; you basically login to the email as you would to a Gmail account, only this time you will be using your official email, say swale@biashara.ke. Each account offers 30GB of storage and is priced at $5 per email (user) per month. This translates to $60 per user per year. Over and above the email, G Suite comes with other tools that include;

  • Device management (for managing account access using mobile devices)
  • Calendar
  • Drive and Docs
  • Groups for Business
  • Google Hangouts (video conferencing can be done from Hangouts)
  • Google Keep
  • Google Sites

Security is very key when it comes to cloud and G Suite is fully aware of this. The security deployed is robust and can be tailored to meet the user’s needs. my favorite is the ability to set different levels of control. For instance, if I set a document to internal level of control, this document can not be shared with external email addresses, even by accident. Another cool application enables you to remotely wipe emails from a mobile device that has been stolen or lost straight from G Suite using the Google Device Policy app.

Will I Lose my Emails in Outlook When I Choose G Suite?

No! In the event you use Microsoft Outlook or Webmail for your emails, worry not. G Suite provides a migration tool that you can use to transfer your emails from Outlook and Ms Exchange as well as Webmail. It’s worthy to note that this will work seamlessly if you set your incoming server protocol to IMAP. POP works fine but the transfer can be problematic for ‘Sent Items’ folder in some instances.

Will I have to Abandon Microsoft Office?

G Suite provides a compatibility tool for those users who want to collaborate using Microsoft Office files. You can use one of the methods listed;

  • Edit a file using Office Compatibility Mode (OCM)
  • Convert the file to Google Docs, Sheets or Slides
  • Use the Google Drive Plug-in for Microsoft Office: Open Word, Excel and Powerpoint documents stored in Drive and save changes back to Drive (Windows)

As a user and a certified G Suite Administrator, it’s a tool I highly recommend. The benefits abound. Give it a try today and be on your way to efficient, innovative way to run your business in the age of data.

 

Credits: The Comprehensive Guide to the Cloud for Small Businesses by Google

Image Credit: https://support.google.com/