Despite the UK being hailed as the sixth biggest cloud user in the EU, with an adoption rate of 42% (up 17.9% since 2014), research suggests not all cloud adoption among UK firms is created equal. Unsurprisingly, enterprise cloud-adoption has continued to race ahead of SMEs.

While enterprises often have the most legacy IT to combat in the move to the cloud, larger businesses have the additional benefit of extra capital and dedicated IT resources behind them to ease the progress. SMBs on the other hand, can tend to be cash poor and lack internal IT resource, leaving cloud migration at the bottom of their list.

This is often when resellers, value-added resellers (VARs) and managed service providers (MSPs) come in to play. Such providers enable SMBs to leverage IT knowledge, expertise and resource without having to hire often expensive IT talent. Yet, there can often remain a barrier when it comes to communications, leaving SMBs too intimidated to ask the most fundamental but important questions at times that could be the barrier to successful cloud adoption.

With this in mind, I've outlined some of the ‘cloud for beginners' questions we receive when speaking with new prospects, that SMBs in the same position may have to ask themselves:

Question 1: Is my business really going to benefit from the cloud?

Answer: Short answer, yes! Why? Cloud-based networks provide the ability to manage the network centrally, from anywhere. This means VARs/MSPs or internal IT teams can check and resolve live issues or strains on the network in real-time, even if they aren't in the office itself. Centralised management essentially provides visibility, cost, and operational efficiencies, it promotes productivity and simplifies issue management and compliance. On-premise deployment and management of networking solutions can come with a hefty price tag.

Question 2: How is the cloud going to change the way we operate / what are the risks associated with adopting cloud?

Answer: By using a cloud-based network, only management data of the devices will be stored in a purpose-built data centre, with greater security. This not only frees local storage of such data, but it means business operations can work more flexibly depending on how and when they need to access it.

The biggest risk with adopting the cloud is the initial migration and this is where working with a VAR or MSP has its advantage. Any business moving their networking strategy into the cloud must have a coordinated approach, which is best managed via a VAR or MSP to ensure a smooth transition. Additionally, you have to remember that by leveraging from the Cloud you gain simplified approaches to deployment that can reduce the complexity.  

Question 3: My IT network has seen better days; do I need to upgrade it to benefit from the cloud?

Answer: Generally speaking, yes. The majority of products and software now come with cloud-based services and capabilities, so to see a greater ROI it would be advisable to make the most of such capabilities. Here at Zyxel, we have tried to migrate as many existing products where we have been able to, so it's always worth a check to see if your hardware is supported in cloud-based systems.

Question 4: What is the upfront investment in cloud and when will I begin to see ROI?

Answer: How long is a piece of string? It essentially comes down to the size of the business, the volume of devices and size of the workspace. Entry-level cloud-based networks are suitable for SMBs intending to reduce complexity in deployment and can be installed within a day, meaning ROI can be seen right away. However, those with larger deployment requirements, such as multi-site deployments, may need to review their on-premise capabilities before adopting a cloud-based network.

Question 5: How can I make sure the cloud networking will work for me?

Answer: Firstly, for scalability and efficiency, leveraging from the cloud in some shape or form is the only way to gain access to the tools and flexibility needed in today's networking environment. By taking advantage of cloud networking you will be able to scale much faster, gain a better understanding of what is happing on your network/s and most of all gain control across multi-devices in a multi-site environment from a single pane of glass. 

Once business IT decision-makers have gone through this process and decided to adopt a cloud-based approach, the last question we often get is ‘why is it so simple?'. The more complex legacy IT was, the fancier it was often deemed to be. However, modern technology now puts user experience first, which means cloud-based tools are not only simple to adopt, but they also streamline internal processes, such as data analytics to support business intelligence through centralised management.