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Embrace the cloud and all it has to offer

The benefits of the cloud are huge and they are now seen as having strategic importance. In 2011 only half of firms used cloud services. Now 84 per cent do. Four out of five adopters are using more than one cloud service.

The value and importance of cloud can be evidenced by the recent results from Microsoft who showed great third-quarter results in their cloud business boasting almost 50 million users among business subscribers.

The growth of cloud is down to more than a desire to cut costs or convenience. Yes, cloud delivers both of these. But the survey highlights a clear change in the role of cloud. When asked whether cloud adoption is driven by operational business needs or as a technological strategy, the latter outstripped the former. The cloud is now being seen as a transformative technology. It can revolutionise business models.

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“The cloud is about delivering competitive advantage,” says Ingram Micro Cloud general manager Apay Obang-Oyway. “It enables organisations to drive greater innovation faster, have greater ability to collaborate and gives access to a global talent pool at a fraction of the cost.

“Just consider the amount of computing you can rely on to deliver innovative solutions. Historically, small businesses could not develop enterprise-class capabilities, such as mining vast sums of data to help produce insightful information, without having large and costly systems in-house. Today small businesses can have access to an enterprise-class business intelligence capability to make smarter business at a fraction of the cost. You can use cloud to reach a majority of the global population, to collaborate, innovate, and deliver both internally and with your customers. It changes everything.”

There is, however, still a lingering reticence preventing full-scale adoption among organisations. When asked what is the biggest inhibitor to moving apps or infrastructure to the cloud, 35 per cent of companies named security and privacy issues. When asked for their motivation for storing data in a specific location, security once again topped the bill, with 74 per cent cited as their reason.

The survey also reveals that security concerns rose slightly over the past year. It is clearly an issue the whole industry needs to address.

“There’s no doubt companies realise they can’t delegate security,” says Raj Samani of Intel Security. “If they thought they could blindly assume their cloud provider was protecting their data, that myth has been destroyed. What we tell everyone is that they have a duty, a legal duty, as well as a business requirement, to find out precisely what cloud services they are using and from whom. Assuming you are in the clear is not acceptable.”

Small and medium-sized businesses should demand to work with partners that truly understand their industry and business to ensure the right value is being derived from cloud

Ignorance is commonplace. Mr Samani agrees with this analysis: “I was at an event and asked the audience how many used Salesforce.com. Almost every hand went up. Then I asked if they knew where their data was stored. Not a single hand went up. Not good enough. It’s a requirement of principle 7 of the Data Protection Act.”

A lack of familiarity with cloud is partly to blame. So what can be done to solve the security conundrum? Mr Samani offers this advice: “Start by assessing your risk appetite. If you are hosting publicly accessible pdfs for wide distribution, then Dropbox is OK. If you are hosting five million confidential health records, then you need security commensurate with that data.”

Transparency is the key. You need full visibility on all aspects of your cloud provision.

Due diligence will be needed. Mr Samani adds: “If you are handing over the keys to your kingdom to a cloud supplier, then you will really need to do the same due diligence as you would for M&A. Ask how long has your supplier been in business? What is their business model? How financially secure are they? And make sure you understand their security set-up. Do they have the right certification?”

As a master cloud service provider, Ingram Micro Cloud has strong views on how best to approach cloud. Mr Obang-Oyway says: “It is important to choose a technology delivery partner who is more than a generalist. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) should demand to work with partners that truly understand their industry and business to ensure the right value is being derived from cloud.

“Partners who have specialisms will be important to this fast-changing world. If you are in professional services, you need a cloud provider who understands the particular requirements of your industry. They will grasp concepts such as keeping data in certain geographical locations and helping you certify data is secure for compliance purposes.”

This is a key point. Half of cloud users, says the survey, have a location-specific requirement because of regulation. Only a switched-on cloud provider will ensure full compliance.

Companies also urgently need to research what extra cloud services they can leverage. “There are so many wonderful applications,” says Mr Obang-Oyway. “With cloud, small and medium-sized businesses can have the same capabilities as those of bigger enterprises.

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“Consider the concept of social, mobility, analytics and cloud – SMAC. These four megatrends are driving innovation for businesses allowing them to achieve greater innovation and a more intimate customer and talent management process that delivers superior value creation for all stakeholders. For example, in the field of business intelligence there are data analytics capabilities which can produce extraordinary actionable information. Too many SMBs are still underutilising these applications.”

The key to exploring the very best in cloud applications is to make sure you pick a provider with a deep knowledge of the full field of options and the ability to deliver whatever you need.

Ingram Micro Cloud takes the very best cloud services from the world’s leading cloud service suppliers and provides packages for reseller partners to provide to their customers. It is a model which ensures users get the best possible mix of services, at the best value, while working with industry specialists in their area. With 20,000 employees, Ingram Micro has the size and buying power to give reseller partners and their end-users the optimum cloud experience.

Mr Obang-Oyway concludes: “We are seeing more and more businesses embrace cloud as the core part of their business strategy. What we need now is to help resellers provide their SMBs with the cloud services that truly enable their strategies. When you start to see what cloud can do for you, the possibilities are limitless.”

For more information on Ingram Micro Cloud visit www.ingrammicrocloud.co.uk follow @IMCloud_UK or call 0871 973 3060