- By R Narayan
Technology for MSMEs: With Industry 4.0 taking a firm grip on global commerce, adaptation within the SME sector is not far behind. Enterprises are undergoing paradigm shifts in operations, employing new technologies, and as a result, how they are doing business. Cloud computation is one such means which is fast heralding the digitisation of industries the world over. Commonly employed in large organisations, SMEs also have joined the bandwagon by adopting the cloud technology which makes operations more mobile and accessible for a team. Not only does it win points on easy adaptability, but also on product versatility.
The three main cloud service offerings of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), make operations extremely easy as all they need is internet access and are ready to be utilised across a range of mediums like laptops, smartphones, tablets etc.
Cloud technology has been a great equaliser in the accessibility of data. Now instead of offline storage kept under lock and key and access subject to availability of person storing data, it is available to all relevant stakeholders at any given point in time and at any place. SMEs are increasingly shifting to more and more features available on the cloud, from HRMS systems to CRM, accounting, salesforce automation and even design.
Other than simplifying collaboration and teamwork, cloud computation also economises operations for the often cash strapped SMEs by offering SaaS applications which are available to SMEs on the go and without any massive investment costs at their end. Moreover, these are highly customisable applications which can be modified as per one’s requirements, from the number of users to the features available, these applications can be maximised and upgraded along with the growing needs of the company. This allows an SME to turn its CAPEX into OPEX by paying nominal amounts for reaping the massive dividends of cloud technology.
A major concern looming over the enterprises who utilise cloud technology is that their information is easily vulnerable to malicious hacks and that their privacy will be compromised. Such incidents may include data breach, hijacking of accounts, malware injections, and data loss among others. It is highly suggested to all those who avail cloud services to trust noted and established names when selecting a service provider, and be sure to maintain due diligence as provision and maintenance of security and privacy is the shared responsibility of the service provider and the customer.
Many enterprises also engage in the services of cloud security experts and software to safeguard their data. The basic key to securing data on the cloud is to ensure proper authorisation for logins and access, monitor user activity closely and maintain a data backup and recovery account. Security is offered in layers with service providers so be sure to select the specification which best serves your needs.
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The SME migration to cloud computation is being accelerated by vendors who are offering support for diverse business needs. These products include front and back-office software like CRM solutions. There are software development companies that provide SMEs with specific solutions that are built from scratch and are tailored to the individual SME’s specific business needs.
Vendors on the cloud are creating platforms which serve as a marketplace for SaaS and IaaS applications. SME owners discover, compare, and buy software for various applications on a pay-per-use model, thus economising a value offering. Cloud also offers telephonic systems and voice services that SMEs can avail, which can lend a large business feel to the small scale businesses through digital voice services like voice mail, conference calling, video conferencing, voice messaging etc. These services can help SMEs save the cost of employing a round-the-clock operator. This infrastructure will ease communication both within and outside the organisation and give a single location experience to people located in different geographies.
Cloud computation offers innumerable benefits for SMEs. Data, when stored in hardware, is susceptible to threats like humidity, damage in natural calamities, theft, and hardware redundancy. Cloud backups suffer none of these and resolve several SME concerns like adaptability, economic viability and business dexterity. Once you have managed to configure your business suite in the cloud, an SME can enjoy the perks of doing seamless business from different locations. This also serves the best of SMEs economic interests as there is no investment in lengthy planned expenses and the pay-as-you-go model proves to be extremely cost-efficient in the long run.
To provide MSMEs with a competitive edge through the use of Information and Communication Technologies, the MSME Ministry disburses a subsidy up to Rs 1 lakh for micro and small enterprises to encourage them to use cloud computing for information and communications technology applications under the “Digital MSME” Scheme.
To provide further impetus to cloud adoption in SMEs earlier this year, Reliance Industries announced a collaboration with Microsoft to provide a range of cloud-based productivity, collaboration, and business applications including Office 365 to ease operations among MSMEs and provide them with a competitive edge at ultra-affordable costs.
(R Narayan is the Senior Vice President at FICCI-CMSME and Founder & CEO at Power2SME. Views expressed are the author’s own.)