Ken Kichirou of Stockton, California, asks:
My small business is growing rapidly and I’m at the point where I need new IT systems. My off-the-shelf accounting package is proving an inadequate solution of multiple files and consolidation spreadsheets. It’s not just accounting. As it’s grown, my company has been held together with different software for each functional role. So, my marketing, project management, customer service and sales systems don’t interact. Extracting the right information quickly is impossible. How does ‘cloud computing’ solve these issues? How can it help me in my day-to-day business activities?
Kenelm Tonkin, Chairman, Tonkin Corporation answers:
Anyone with a growing enterprise and a need to revamp their systems is in an exciting place today. IT developments for SMEs have been so dramatic in the last 3 years that taking on some of these benefits will transform the way you do business.
One is cloud computing. The idea here is that you rid yourself of all the old headaches of software licensing, hardware investment, IT techie-speak, installation, ongoing upgrades, software compatibility issues, manual back-ups and server maintenance. With cloud computing, the traditional desktop-server model is turned on its head. For one monthly fee, now software providers will develop browser-accessed software, invest in significant server infrastructure, employ technicians to improve and update the software seamlessly, grant you usage rights to the system, offer you customized KPI metrics and meaningful dashboards, protect your data with sophisticated encryption technology, firewalls and frequent, multi-site, automated back-up security.
For decades, compatibility between systems has been impeded because installation updates were managed by the client. So, differing version hindered the process. With a software provider updating once on a centralized server, inter-system compatibility is fostered. So, now accounting, marketing, project management, customer service and sales systems are more likely to interact. Today, it is entirely feasible for an SME to have fully integrated information delivered to a desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile. So, you will be able to check office telephone usage from your mobile, customer service interactions from an airport lounge, or a marketing campaign’s impact on revenue whilst at home.
Go to the cloud. Abandon the traditional desktop-server framework. Save yourself frustration and money. While engaged in this IT revamp, think too about online video communication and a paperless office. Even that alone will save you a small fortune.