By Luis Alvarez, CEO, BT Global Services
We are on a journey that will give every business a digital dimension. Britain’s creative and knowledge-based industries are strongly positioned to take advantage of this opportunity. Successes such as retailers ASOS and notonthehighstreet.com, property website Zoopla and business lender Funding Circle are already showing the world how using technology creatively can deliver stunning business outcomes.
Today, the right technology infrastructure is as essential to the entrepreneur as finance, skills and a positive regulatory environment. Access to the right digital tools and services enable you to scale up quickly, and make the transition from local business to global operator. Increasingly, cloud computing provides the solution for the business that wants to scale and expand.
Cloud services such as telephony or conferencing have been around for a while. However, the availability of higher speed connections, the digitalisation of business and increasing interoperability are accelerating their growth. Cloud services come in a variety of flavours: a company can own its own cloud services (a private cloud); they can be provided by a third party, such as Microsoft, Amazon or Google; or they can be a mix of both. The one thing all have in common is that applications, data and storage are stored in a data centre connected to the corporate network and centrally managed.
Five reasons to use the cloud
Cloud services can help any business to be more efficient and agile, to benefit from innovation. These are the reasons why:
The cloud is built for scaling. You can be up and running in days. You can turn services up and down/on and off in line with the cycle of your business. When you use the cloud, you can grow as much or as fast as you want and you’ll never run short of capacity.
It’s not a major capital investment. There are lots of commercial models for cloud services but the opportunity to ‘pay as you go’ is beneficial for a business that is scaling up or experiences peaks and troughs in demand.
There’s a lot of choice: basic productivity tools such as email and Microsoft Office; enterprise applications such as Salesforce; collaborative tools such as videoconferencing; highly secure specialist applications for regulated industries.
It really doesn’t matter where you are, or where your customers are - Edinburgh-based Standard Life launch products into Singapore and Dubai using cloud-based contact centres. The cloud lets any organisation become a valued commercial partner in the global supply chain.
The cloud is an excellent platform for collaboration. Take life sciences, where pharmaceutical companies are under pressure to accelerate the development of new drugs. Cloud-based R&D techniques such as in-silico modelling and simulation let pharma and bioscience companies quickly and securely share and analyse results, improving time to market for new products.
Fintech and the cloud
An example of this in action is the financial services industry’s BT Radianz Cloud. It links brokers, institutions, exchanges and clearing and settlement houses in 170 countries. Through a single network connection, they can securely access thousands of financial applications and services, making it easy to introduce new services to their customers, or expand geographically.
The Radianz Cloud is also proving to be a valuable route to market for financial technology companies. Instead of negotiating to install your new fintech product with individual institutions (which is hard if you are not an established provider), you can make it available to anyone anywhere in the world with a Radianz Cloud connection. Electronic trading venue Squawker is one British fintech company that supplies its service via this cloud.
A ‘cloud of clouds’
While cloud services are undoubtedly the right IT model for the business intent on scale, there are some operational caveats. Wherever you trade, you need to make sure you comply with industry regulation and local legislation. In our interconnected world, that can get complicated. Secondly, you need to think about how your cloud services will work together, and with your internal systems. And performance of your cloud services can only be as good as your network - and no growing business wants to build its own global IT network.
According to industry analyst Ovum, the solution is an “honest broker”, an expert third party who can pull all your cloud services and assets together into a single ‘cloud of clouds’ and deliver them to you via its own secure network. For the growing business, this ‘cloud of clouds’ IT model is a practical framework in which to leverage the best cloud service investments from any vendor, while benefiting from the highest standards of security, compliance and network performance.
Scale up, and up
In summary, cloud services can give businesses of every size the springboard they need to scale up. The cloud combines flexibility with control, and gives a platform for international expansion. To make the most of the opportunity, smart entrepreneurs will embrace the ‘cloud of clouds’ idea, turning to IT partners who can help them join up and manage their cloud service formations. Such a ‘cloud of clouds’ strategy can help many more UK companies realise their full global potential.