Cloud tech is helping small firms tap into big data

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Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are drowning in data, but with the right cloud technology apps and setup, they can make use of the deluge without costly infrastructure or IT configurations.

For example, cloud services can take on reams of data that would once have required a room full of servers – and what’s more, data from outside sources can be accessed and even incorporated into a business’s own data points.

“Today’s technology has revolutionised our ability to access data, levelling the playing field for smaller firms,” says Shraga Zaltzman, who recently left his position as chief executive at employment specialist, Work Avenue.

From monitoring customer activity to logging financial records,
data can now be stored, accessed and analysed online, thanks to the growth of software-as-a-service (Saas) applications – web-hosted, subscription-based software accessed through a web browser – and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) applications, which enable companies to build their own apps through a browser without much of the traditional complexity and cost.

Here, three small business owners explain how they are making use of the cloud and modern tech to streamline their IT operations.

The fitness education provider

Fitness course provider, Origym, specialises in distance learning and online courses. Its managing director, Luke Hughes, says that the company uses selected cloud apps and services to streamline communications and business operations, and lower costs.

“We use IBM Cloud for aspects of our business where there’s crossover from one department to the next,” he says.

The solutions offered by IBM Cloud are varied, but the same principles underlie all of them: giving small businesses access to tech and data management that would once have required significant IT infrastructure and staffing.

“[The cloud apps] allow free-flowing communication between different aspects of the business, which we’ve found all the more paramount
as we’ve grown,” adds Mr Hughes.

As well as switching its phone systems to cloud technology for easier access and simpler data collection, it also replaced its customer relationship management (CRM) system with Insightly on the web, reducing downtime and IT management costs – and allowing for easier data management and scaling.

The new online system handles live data about customer relations in one place – and offers online server storage, which means that Origym can minimise local IT resources while still getting the same type of software and quality data analysis as bigger firms.

The PR firm

Tracking multiple clients, activities and campaigns generates a lot of data for public relations firm Mash PR – data that SaaS platform, Smartsheet, helps it to handle. As well as working across computers and mobile devices, it generates real-time reports, actionable task lists, and at-a-glance overviews of what’s happening.

It’s a strong example of the kind of unified data management and resource platforms that SMEs can now tap into from any web browser, with no technical know-how required.

“It has enabled us to optimise our internal process to be much more organised, on target and productive,” says Stu Campbell-Carran, managing partner at Mash.

“It allows us to spend more time doing than logging, which, in turn, means that we can offer big agency services to clients despite being relatively small.”

Cloud content management platform, Box, is also used by Mash PR to handle data and backups off-site. With the data offloaded to and processed in the the cloud, staff can get on with focusing on their jobs, and even IT support can be handled remotely.

“Our whole business’s IT and data is in the cloud,” Mr Campbell-Carran explains. “It has absolutely streamlined every aspect of the business. Digital tools such as Smartsheet and Box can record and simplify everything from finance through to.

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