How the cloud delivers flexibility without costing the earth

Moving to the cloud delivers a variety of benefits - and they're easily measurable if you look at what it costs not to move

Ask CIOs why they have moved to the cloud and you'll get a variety of answers: "Creating our own private cloud, with virtualised servers and software, has saved us £11,000 a year by reducing our electricity consumption for power and cooling."

"We were able to get a hosted solution with a private cloud and virtual desktops for what one competent IT head would have cost us."

"Without the cloud, I couldn’t have started this business, grown this business, or made it into a profitable business."

"Our email marketing campaigns have become more intelligent and more successful."

"We can respond to our customers faster and more effectively.’

There are lots of different reasons for using the cloud ‘as a service’ delivery model to access software applications, data storage, processing power, and more. As well as reductions in up front costs, maintenance and other overheads, having the latest software and systems, and improving communications and collaboration, lists of ‘hopes and dreams’ often feature words such as agility, flexibility, responsiveness and productivity. But some benefits are easier to realise than others; some are easier to measure than others; some are easier to assign monetary value to than others.

When Dijitul.com decided to swap its Sage Line 50 accounting system for the cloud-based system KashFlow, it had no problem putting a price tag on the benefits. ‘They were very quantifiable,’ says Dave Hartshorne, the Dijitul managing director. ‘We saved £2,800 right away, as there was no need for the same level of accountancy services.’ Instead of paying accountants £400 per quarter for bookkeeping, Hartshorne and his partner now do it themselves. ‘Being able to input and manage finance, and without being at any particular PC, is a huge benefit to the business.’

At Trends Research, providing all of the employees with cloud-based access to the software they need, has helped the business to be much more productive, and to hang onto a valued member of staff that it would otherwise have lost. "When one of our employees returned after taking maternity leave, childcare needs meant that she could only be in the office for two days each week," says Richard Alvin, group managing director, "but using the cloud gives her the flexibility to work as normal for five days each week and only be in the office for two of those days."

Alvin hasn’t measured what this is worth in hard cash, but the alternative would have created costs associated with recruiting a new staff member and the upheaval. "I am a huge advocate of the cloud, so all aspects of Trends Research are now cloud-based," says Alvin, and although he adds that cost "wasn’t a consideration" when choosing this approach, it has given the business a "flexible working pattern", that does have financial benefits. "The flexibility has enabled Trends Research to see an immediate reduction in our cost base and our overheads," he reports.

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