Cloud Storage Surge: How Resellers Empower SMEs in Data Revolution

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Head in the clouds

How the cloud storage revolution has spread to SMEs, and why resellers are key to its success.

We’ve all heard outlandish statements about the value of data, but those predictions of skyrocketing value are starting to come true.

Certainly, the generative AI revolution makes the case that data has become one of the most precious assets that a business can attain.

In fact, the amount of data in the world is estimated to grow to more than 180 zettabytes in just over a year, meaning a whole lot more information for Chat GPT-adjacent programmes to draw from; and maybe even use against us.

Dystopian predictions of the future aside, this explosion in data usage has meant that businesses now have to answer the question of where, and even how, to store the information that they use on a daily basis.

A lot of this growth has come because of new interest from small and medium-sized businesses as Kubair Shirazee, enterprise agility coach for the Middle East, Near East, Africa & Turkey at AgiliTea explains.

“There’s a significant trend of SMEs migrating data to the cloud,” he says. “As of 2023 about 44% of traditional small businesses use cloud infrastructure or hosting services, according to TechRepublic. 

“This shift is driven by a need for cost efficiency, scalability and a desire to focus on core business activities rather than IT infrastructure management. Cloud services also offer enhanced collaboration, accessibility and scalability.”

Lee Thatcher, head of cloud at CloudCoCo, agrees. “A growing number of businesses, especially SMEs, are moving their data to the cloud,” he says. “This shift is driven by the decreasing costs of cloud storage and an increased emphasis on cybersecurity. 

“As the price of cloud storage continues to drop, businesses find it cost-effective to leverage cloud solutions for data storage, as cloud service providers offer specialised security measures, addressing the rising concerns in the digital landscape.

“The appeal of cloud storage is further heightened by its scalability and flexibility, allowing businesses to seamlessly scale storage needs without data size limitations. This scalability is particularly beneficial for SMEs with dynamic growth or fluctuating data requirements.

“The migration is also fuelled by the benefit of having less management and overhead associated with traditional storage.”

Efficient solution

The motivations for this mass migration make sense in a landscape that is proving tough for a lot of businesses out there. 

As Ben Voce, modern workplace specialist at Exertis, points out, businesses can rely on cloud storage for a lot of the services they need to comply with regulations as well as turn a profit.

“Moving data to the cloud can help workers access their data from anywhere and on any device increasing productivity,” he says. “It gets rid of the requirements for VPNs and gives users an always-on solution where files can be accessed via a desktop, laptop, tablet or phone via applications or a web browser and still ensure that a rich feature set is available. 

“It also allows users from multiple locations to collaborate on files at the same time rather than having multiple copies going around the business and storage in different locations. It’s also secure so you can control who accesses what data and with the ability to share files online rather than attaching them to emails it’s easy to revoke access if required. 

“With more and more applications being available as SaaS offerings and users not always working from a single location the need for on-premise technology is reducing, this isn’t to say that on-premise storage will disappear completely as there will always be use cases to keep data on-premise but for a large number of SMEs the cloud offers everything they need without the hassle of maintaining on-premise systems.”

Mark O’Dell, operations director at Babble, adds: “For SMEs, moving to the cloud should be a no-brainer,” he says. “The cloud offers multiple benefits such as compatibility with remote work, cheaper storage, scalability and greater flexibility. All these benefits go hand in hand with making SMEs more competitive against larger enterprises.

“Over the last few years, migrating to the cloud has become easier, making the move accessible to businesses with even the smallest of IT teams. While there are still plenty of ‘gotchas’ to avoid, such as planning your data structures and permissions at the start, worries about the actual process shouldn’t be a barrier to making the move.”

Making the move

These benefits are naturally attractive for businesses. It is therefore little wonder that cloud storage vendors have seen an increase in SME business.

On top of the positives we have heard about, Don Valentine, commercial director at Absoft, cites regulation as a key reason why migration is a lot easier than it may have been before.

“With a potentially unlimited choice of customisation and long-drawn-out implementations, enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions used to be daunting. With solutions like S/4HANA from SAP, that model has changed completely, and those businesses still ignoring the 2027 deadline for the end of ECC support need to recognise and embrace the new approach or risk falling behind. 

“Standardisation plus the range of tools in place to help businesses make the transition are accelerating the process. The entire experience is very clear and very clean and, when combined with a partner that takes the time to get to know a customer or prospect, the process should give certainty.”

Lee says that migration is becoming less of a huddle too. “Moving data from on-premise to the cloud is now no more challenging than transitioning to another server,” he adds. “The process is continually simplifying, facilitated by the increasing number of individuals migrating their storage to the cloud. 

“However, before making the shift, certain factors need consideration when comparing the cloud to on-premise solutions.”

Key considerations

This is a view that is shared by Gary Bliss, cloud solutions consultant at Fasthosts ProActive, who says that, although there are benefits to migrating to the cloud, businesses do need to consider cost and connectivity before making the leap.

“Migrating to the cloud offers several benefits for SMEs, including improved accessibility, centralised data and business scalability,” he says. “However, there are some challenges that SMEs need to consider and overcome to successfully migrate from on-premise to cloud storage. 

“Primarily these revolve around cost and connectivity. Storing data via the cloud can be more expensive than on-premise solutions. As such, the switch should be planned carefully. 

“It’s also important to consider that, although short-term costs can be greater, cloud storage will often save SMEs money in the long run.

“On top of this, the cloud requires a high-speed internet connection to ensure everyone working remotely can reliably access company data.”

Andy Brown, technical services director of Advanced Solutions at TD Synnex, adds that having a strategy also makes the migration task less of an issue. “Public cloud services offer a wide range of data storage options, but choosing the correct service for your data can be complex as they tend to be tiered based upon performance, capacity, throughput, access and costs,” he says. 

“The enterprise storage features that customers have been using on-premises may not be available within public cloud storage services, and that could have an impact on IT operational processes, therefore organisations need to consider when and how to move the data to public cloud providers. 

“Businesses also need to consider how data can be accessed, retrieved, protected and secured. The same data security obligations apply to data storage within the public cloud and many companies will need additional skills to ensure their data is secured within public cloud storage services.

“Multiple factors may need to be considered, including storage costs, risk, and compliance. Therefore discussing data management strategies with end customers can provide partners with an opportunity to re-engage with customers and get a better understanding of their current position and business goals.” 

Partner role

This is where resellers come in. When businesses struggle to work out what may be best for them, or whether they should be migrating at all, partners offer guidance on how to move to the cloud.

Lee says that trust was at the heart of finding success in helping businesses move to the cloud. “In our role as a trusted partner, it is our responsibility to design and provide guidance on the most suitable solutions for our customers contemplating a move to the cloud,” he says. 

“Our process involves thorough validation, considering factors such as the volume of data, and the bandwidth and speed of their network which are critical considerations, impacting both the migration process and the chosen migration type. 

“Security is also a paramount concern, and we work towards designing a solution that is not only secure but also compliant with relevant standards. Additionally, ensuring data consistency is a key focus, guaranteeing the maintenance of data integrity and consistency to prevent any loss or corruption of data during the transition.”

Kubair also describes this role as a “trusted adviser”, adding: “Resellers play a crucial role as trusted advisors by guiding cloud migration, offering custom solutions, choosing service models, and facilitating the transition. 

“However, start by reflecting on what are your needs, what you consider the core business, and what value moving to the cloud would add to your business.”

Paul Vogt, Loftware VP of partner strategies, goes one step further, identifying resellers as a “vital service provider.

“In the niche of supply chain labelling and printing, the role of the reseller becomes more critical with the move to cloud. The reseller becomes an even more vital service provider. Resellers have access to the customer’s cloud solutions and can provide label design and application development services. 

“They can also offer device monitoring and management services for predictive maintenance and can be the agent of customer success as they know the whole solution better than the customer, often offering process improvements, reporting and analytics, and contributions to necessary changes.”

Ben adds that resellers have a massive role in helping customers move to the cloud. “Gone are the days of just taking a single data store and putting it in a single cloud storage site, customers need guidance on the best way to architect the data,” he says. 

“Running workshops with customers is vital to find out how a business and its departments work, considerations with data security and compliance need to be considered as well. I always find offering proof of concept environments helps customers shape the design and makes them feel included in the process, giving a better result and happier customers. 

“Another big area that sometimes gets overlooked is training. Offering training solutions to the customers is vital and increases satisfaction with the solution and ensures people are more receptive to changes and can address concerns before the go-live date.”

Automation, standardisation, accessed in different locations

As we look forward, it seems that a range of factors are set to make a mark on the data storage industry, as Don explains: “As businesses look to close the books on 2023 and move into 2024, the cloud computing industry is set to change significantly,” he says. 

“A trend expected to see gaining momentum is the adoption of software as a service (SaaS) public cloud offerings in the greenfield, particularly in combination with next-generation ERP systems.

“This is because many organisations are now realising that true innovation and digital transformation come from a combination of cloud infrastructure and cloud-native, multi-tenant SaaS ERP solutions. This shift builds upon the recognition that merely moving existing ERP systems to the cloud does not automatically trigger innovation. 

“Instead, it is the combination of cloud infrastructure with cutting-edge ERP products that propel businesses toward digital transformation. This trend aligns with SAP’s strategy, as partners have seen a significant uptick in the adoption of cloud-native ERP offerings. 

“Additionally, one key area to watch is the integration of AI into their cloud products and the availability of sustainability initiatives. With increasing legislative requirements on companies to report on their carbon footprint, the role of AI in tracking and analysing sustainability data will become vital.”

Mark adds that AI is going to have a hand in the future use of data storage “Looking ahead to 2024, AI is set to change the cloud game by automating tasks and saving businesses time,” he says. “SMEs should be aware of the power AI has, however, they need to make sure they’re not giving into ‘FOMO’ and are investing in these tools for the right reasons.

“As a cloud solution provider, Babble has seen what has gone well in thousands of migrations; as well as what has gone badly. It is this broad experience that is helpful to both SMEs with no in-house IT, as well as larger companies with established teams. It’s all about making the right moves and staying ahead of the curve to remain truly competitive.”

On top of this, it seems that just like most other industries, the hybrid working trend will also make its mark on the storage industry, as Gary details: “More recently, hybrid cloud solutions have emerged as an increasingly popular way of handling and storing data for SMEs,” he says. “These can offer a nice middle ground between on-premise and
cloud services. 

“Hybrid solutions rely on a local backup system that synchronises with a cloud backup. Businesses can set it so files are backed up on a computer’s local drive, which then backs up to the cloud. This can also work in reverse, where files are uploaded directly to the cloud from the computer, while simultaneously backing up to the local drive. 

“This ‘double back up’ method means data will be quick and easy to restore, minimising the risk of data loss. This approach enables SMEs to customise their storage solution to meet the specific needs of the business, giving flexibility and scalability, alongside the security and control that comes with on-premise data storage.”