How SMBs can get the best out of the cloud

Digital clouds against a blue background.
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Blackboard)

Cost savings were once a major selling point for cloud computing. But rising energy bills, inflation, chip shortages and missed revenue opportunities have all led to providers hiking their costs. Indeed, Canalys forecasts public cloud prices to rise 30% in Europe this year. SMBs will find already tight budgets face further pressure from spiraling cloud costs.

But the real kick in the teeth here is that they also probably won’t realize any additional benefits either. Over the last 10 years we have seen a rush to the cloud due to the promise of unlimited computational resources, scalability, storage, and access. In order to maintain a low-cost image, clients of cloud services often overprovision the number of users on a single cloud instance, causing very poor performance for end users.

So, what should SMBs do to make sure they’re not buying into cloud providers which are out for profit rather than performance?

Well, these limitations don’t mean that organisations should be choosing on-prem solutions. Instead, they should be careful in how they assess hosted solutions, to ensure transparency around the platform, costs, benefits and performance before making a decision.

Let’s explore…

Mark Adams

Co-founder of Inevidesk.

The overpromise of big cloud vendors

At the core of the cloud, is hardware. Cables, switches, servers and firewalls, that are really technical and that no one wants to think about. And a huge amount of hardware is necessary to run cloud services on a wide scale.

That’s why tech giants tend to charge based on usage – to make back their extensive investment in building IT infrastructure resources. So, when you see their services advertised at low prices and with a list of benefits which seem too good to be true – such as unlimited scalability, for example – they usually are. When it actually comes to using these cloud services in practice, it will be much more expensive than many organizations anticipate, especially those who need to use powerful, high-performance tools such as Revit, Vectorworks, Bentley or Rhino.

Companies seeking cloud-based solutions need to be aware of this marketing trick and ensure a careful evaluation process occurs to understand how much they would ultimately be spending in the long term. By approaching the cloud in this way, SMBs can ensure they won't commit themselves to unpayable monthly bills further down the line.

Avoid outdated hardware

SMBs also need to be aware that vendors will often be using outdated hardware to reduce their costs and maximize the value of each unit.

Using older hardware has huge performance considerations, should you decide to adopt these cloud-based services.

High cost doesn’t mean 100% uptime

When you’re paying more for services, it would be natural for SMBs to presume that big vendors can maintain 100% uptime, particularly since they market limitless resources and points of presence. But this is wrong. In reality, services run by the likes of Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure do go down and when they do, they cut off huge swathes of global services relying on them.

What’s more, is that despite their seemingly unlimited capacity, companies of this size find it harder to identify the cause of downtime issues, due to a larger and more complicated infrastructure. That leads to longer downtime periods affecting organizations of all sizes but particularly hits harder for SMBs who often need to be agile, and fast-paced to go against larger competitors. This is another important aspect to consider when choosing a cloud provider, since longer downtime equates to greater vulnerability.

It’s not all doom and gloom

I’ve spoken about the dangers of big cloud providers, but this doesn’t mean companies should return to on-prem infrastructure, which doesn’t suit their needs such as enabling high performance, hybrid or remote working. Instead, businesses should take the time to understand how hosted services can be integrated into their organization, and ask the right questions about the vendor’s platform, costs and benefits along the way. This will ensure that smaller businesses can keep costs in line with their business goals.

So, when seeking a move away from on-prem infrastructure, SMBs should be asking themselves: 

1. Is the hardware used to run the service going to give you the best level of performance for your investment? 

2. How much more resilient will this service make your organization? 

3. What will the total cost be and how does it stack up against alternative cloud providers? 

4. What will be the ultimate return on your investment? Whether this means operational efficiency, business continuity or the ability to move to a smaller office, it should serve the best interest of your business.

Transparency is key

It is vital that SMBs, as well as organizations of all sizes, have a complete understanding of how hosted services will impact performance and costs. This will allow organizations to get the best out of the cloud, without any shocks further down the line like sprawling costs. You just have to know what to look for.

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Mark Adams is co-founder of Inevidesk