SMEs in the hosted cloud
Hosted cloud isn’t only for large enterprises: small businesses and even home users all require some services in the cloud. Services such as Web hosting, e-mail hosting, backup services and the like are always too expensive for smaller operations to afford when they’re purchased as enterprise services. What’s required is a lower cost solution specifically for that market, says Gareth Smith, Solutions Architect at Sizwe Africa IT Group.
Why a solution specifically tailored to SMEs? Well, smaller operations have different requirements from those of an enterprise's requirements, explains Smith. For instance, enterprise solutions always come with a higher overheads owing to the solution builds, the costly enterprise hardware underneath and the expertise needed to support them. With smaller cloud offerings, the overheads and end-user costs are lower and the support teams are larger and more streamlined to support the pint-size guy.
He adds that the advent of COVID-19 has accelerated the drive to tailor offerings specifically for small business and work-from-home. “We’re seeing increased demand for flexibility and month-to-month contracts, whereas previously, annual contracts were standard. Today, businesses don’t know what will happen in the next 12 months and find it challenging to plan that far ahead.”
The pandemic has and will continue for the foreseeable future to impact how individuals and businesses work. The majority of smaller companies are benefiting from a work-from-home (WFH) strategy and the hosted cloud is giving those small businesses the option of month-to-month services without long-term contracts. This provides the SME with the autonomy to choose the services that they require right now – and to expand and contract as required.
Smith goes on to list the types of cloud-hosted services that SMEs can benefit from, explaining that cloud hosting is categorised into several aspects:
- Web hosting
- Mail hosting
- Backup as a service
- Server hosting
- Certificate SSL services
- Cybersecurity antivirus
- 24/7 ticketing system
- Enterprise class server infrastructure billed at low prices.
It’s key that SMEs choose cloud services that are always available, backed-up and secured. All data on hosted platforms should reside in South Africa and if some are not, should follow POPIA/GDPR, data governance and compliancy requirements. There should be a client zone ticketing system, available 24/7, with emergency support services.
Smith advises other aspects to look out for include a choice between either Linux or Windows Web hosting. Mail hosting should offer a clean, manageable experience, offering larger limits in mailbox sizes, easy-to-use mail management platform and be highly available. Backup as a service should include a choice of workstation backups, server backups and Office 365 backups.
When it comes to SSL certificates for your Web site, look for a choice between standard SSL, wildcard and multi domain (SAN) certificates. “You also want hosted, dedicated servers to run your applications in the cloud, a user friendly cloud portal to manage your servers. Cyber security endpoint protection should be offered at an annual or monthly cost.”
It’s been made incredibly simple for SMEs to procure hosted cloud services, much like making any online purchase. All they have to do is visit a cloud marketplace Web site, choose the product they wish to buy, register their details and checkout their cart. They’ll be sent an e-mail with their portal login information and they can immediately start using the service.
Smith concludes: “By using hosted cloud services, SMEs can rapidly and efficiently enable the remote workforce to collaborate without needing to invest in the infrastructure or technical skills required to set up their own cloud. They can scale up or down as needed and add or remove functionality as their requirements change, virtually overnight. Naturally, this is over and above the cost savings inherent in using hosted cloud services.”