INSIGHT: Xero throws down cloud gauntlet to NZ SMBs

Victoria Crone, Managing Director, Xero New Zealand believes it’s time for small businesses to stop making excuses and give cloud technology a chance.

Everyone is talking about the joys of the Cloud these days, and as a leader of an organisation that’s built its business in the cloud, I am certainly no exception.

But if you speak to anyone in our offices, they’ll tell you we sell ‘time’ not cloud accounting software.

That’s because one of the many benefits of using cloud technology is that it enables access to data and services anywhere with an internet connection and across devices.

This means greater flexibility in when and where work can be done, all without the burden or cost of managing complex IT systems – in short saving users time.

In practice, the ability to access online accounts in real-time and on-the-go can be a real game-changer for small businesses when it comes to gaining a competitive advantage.

So it may come as a surprise to learn that many small business owners remain sceptical about the cloud – citing concerns around security, reliability, data ownership and even that the cloud might just be a fad.

Cloud-based software and services can be a fantastic solution for many small businesses and in my opinion it’s time for small businesses to stop making excuses and give cloud technology a chance.

Here are some reasons why:

Cloud myth #1: The cloud isn’t secure

People often share concerns around the security of keeping business data in the cloud. The truth is however, that your data is often more safe in the cloud than on a local server.

This is because the majority of cloud providers employ enterprise-level security systems that go well beyond what the typical small business can provide.

It’s in their best interest to keep your data secure, so you can rely on 24/7 support from dedicated teams of security experts, and rest easy with ongoing software and hardware update support.

I often hear small business owners say that data security is not a priority they can afford, but in the event of a natural disaster or fire, having your data in the cloud means productivity doesn’t need to be affected.

With all your information securely stored off-site – you’re back up and running as soon as you have access to the internet.

Cloud myth #2: I won’t have control over my data

Working in the cloud can actually allow for stronger control over your business data. Not only is it available wherever you are, but you can directly regulate who gets to see it, and what they get to see.

The majority of cloud providers clearly understand a business’ need to maintain ownership of their intellectual property – and wouldn’t jeopardise this.

As with any business service, making sure you read the terms and conditions through in full before signing up to anything should be standard procedure and in this case, you should pay close attention to clauses about intellectual property, proprietary data, file ownership and confidentiality.

You can also make provisions to ensure data sovereignty, so that your data is kept within New Zealand and not stored offshore.

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Cloud myth #3: The cloud isn’t reliable

Internet reliability and reach is improving as providers continue to invest in infrastructure across the country.

As with electricity services across much of New Zealand today, it’s rare for the Internet to go down and when it does, it doesn’t take long for it to come back online.

Meanwhile, your data is safe in the event of an outage, and you’re likely to have it available again soon.

Where infrastructure is still developing in parts of rural New Zealand, some businesses use a combination of onsite and offsite cloud solutions to ensure critical systems are always available.

I think we can all agree that the world is becoming more connected, not less, and as broadband infrastructure continues to grow in rural New Zealand, driven by the Rural Broadband Initiative, this will evolve rapidly.

Cloud myth #4: The Cloud is a fad

The cloud is not a fad – it's proven to have longevity and is only going to get bigger. Internet banking, a great example of how the cloud works in providing you access to your bank’s information, has been around for more than 15 years.

Whilst the industry of cloud services is relatively new, the increased speeds and reliability arising from the continuing development of internet infrastructure means that the business case for using cloud services is only growing stronger.

Use of cloud can also be very powerful in terms of creativity because it supports collaboration in real time.

And, with some of the biggest global software players like Microsoft and Adobe switching over to cloud-based services, we can take this as a clear sign that the cloud is now thoroughly mainstream.

SMBs in the cloud

If you haven’t already, there’s never been a better time to take a serious look at how your small business could reap the benefits of operating in the cloud.

As with any business supplier decision, it is critical to immerse yourself in the finer details of any cloud services agreement, but the tangible benefits to productivity that the cloud offers speak for themselves.

With access to your important business information anywhere, anytime, the cloud takes the stress and effort out of IT and allows you to get on with what’s making you money, and offering a competitive advantage that is impossible to ignore.

By Victoria Crone - Managing Director, Xero New Zealand