The potential benefits to small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) of cloud networking, whereby applications/data is accessible on the Internet instead of on a single computer or private network, are well recorded. SMB spending on cloud services is expected to increase by almost 20 percent annually over the next five years.

Common examples of cloud-based solutions that SMBs are using include hosted email and storage, online payment processing and accounts software. Many traditional services are also ‘moving to the cloud’ to become more cost-effective and efficient. For example, while fax may seem outdated as a method of business communication, very often there is a legal requirement for businesses to be able to send and receive faxes even though fax machines may be costly both in terms of outlay and ongoing maintenance.

Hosted fax solutions offer a cost-effective alternative, allowing businesses to send and receive faxes securely over the Internet and are just one example of how cloud services have the power to revolutionise legacy business practices for SMBs.

However, with more and more companies moving to the cloud for everything from the basics, network connectivity has never been more important. Services delivered through the Cloud are only as reliable as the network that they are delivered on – if the connection to the Internet breaks so does the ability to access important applications and data which may be fundamental for day to day operations.

For cloud-based services, network availability is critical, particularly with the increasing use of data-heavy technologies such as IP telephony and video competing for bandwidth. Indeed, network security and reliability are among the biggest concerns for businesses thinking about adopting cloud services. So what can companies do to guarantee network reliability while keeping costs to a minimum?

  • Flexibility: SMBs need an Internet service which meets their specific bandwidth requirements but at the same time is flexible enough to guarantee only the capacity needed is paid for, with the ability to expand as more capacity is needed to enable business growth while keeping control on costs
  • Dual Internet connection: A dual Internet connection, comprising both business-class Internet access and residential broadband, will help keep costs reduced while also providing crucial backup connectivity should one of the connections fail to ensure no downtime.
  • Service guarantees: SMBs need a network they can rely on and as such, should look for an Internet service that is backed up with stringent SLA’s to ensure the highest levels of network availability

For many SMBs, the Internet is fundamental to day to day operations. Businesses looking to cut technology costs and improve efficiency are finding the many benefits of Internet-based software and services more and more attractive. Cloud services are scalable, efficient and secure and give SMEs access to computing power previously only available to larger companies, on a pay-per-use basis to minimise capital expenditure, reduce costs and maintain growth in new areas.