How SME operators can harness IT to reduce operational costs

With the promise of lower costs, increased efficiency and new ways to meet organisational priorities, cloud-computing could be the latest game changer, especially for growing enterprises.
The Office 365 website, which allows a user to create an account and start working ‘on the cloud’. The software is touted as a new business game-changer. The New Times / Ben Gasore
The Office 365 website, which allows a user to create an account and start working ‘on the cloud’. The software is touted as a new business game-changer. The New Times / Ben Gasore

With the promise of lower costs, increased efficiency and new ways to meet organisational priorities, cloud-computing could be the latest game changer, especially for growing enterprises.

Cloud-computing is an expression used to describe a variety of computing concepts that involve a large number of computers connected through a real-time communication network such as the Internet.

It is about distributed computing over a network, and means the ability to run a programme or application on many connected computers at the same time.

The phrase also more commonly refers to network-based services, which appear to be provided by real server hardware and are in fact served up by virtual hardware, simulated by software running on one or more machines.

Such virtual servers do not physically exist and can therefore be moved around and scaled up or down without affecting the end user, rather like a cloud.

“This means there are no discs, wires, cables, hard drives or the expensive physical security needed to protect them,” Eric Odipo, the Microsoft general manager for East and Southern Africa, explained in an interview.

Odipo said the immediate cost benefits are huge, especially for small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs) that often don’t have the capital for IT hardware investment and administrative labour.

“Moving to the cloud offers savings that come from different and flexible software pricing models. Besides, one is able to work on the go, accessing their files on their mobile phone or tablet from anywhere,” he advised.

As broadband availability in Rwanda increases, cloud-computing is expected to have a huge influence on the way people communicate and conduct business, Odipo noted.

Microsoft new cloud solution, Office 365, offers pay-as-you-go pricing and is available in various packages, with each one specifically designed to meet a particular need. Users can also pay a predictable monthly fee, and can subscribe to specific applications like Microsoft Office, Microsoft SharePoint Online, Microsoft Exchange Online and Microsoft Lync Online, without having to spend unnecessarily on programmes they won’t use.

“Today, we are evolving from the information age to the collaboration age, where the ability to take action on information will set successful businesses apart from the rest.

“Office 365 will accelerate this evolution by delivering enterprise-grade collaboration for all businesses – small or large,” said Odipo.

In February this year, local firm Twenty Third Century Systems launched a service that offers cloud-computing business solutions mainly to the small-and-medium enterprises and organisations.

The company partnered with IT firms and the government-owned Broadband Systems Corporation to unveil the Twenty Third Century Systems’ cumulus brand powered by the world’s leading business solutions software company, SAP.

Cumulus is a business management solution that will enable the business community access world-class business management tools for efficient and effective functioning.

Government institutions have also leveraged cloud-computing to reduce costs, improve transparency, advance collaboration, better focus on critical needs, and increase citizen services.

“Cloud-computing makes it possible for SMEs and government to access services they need without having to invest in time, human and costly infrastructure,” said Jean Philbert Nsengimana, State Minister for Youth and ICT, in a phone interview yesterday.

He said it allows low cost, scalable, reliable, secure, high performance, fast to deploy and maintenance-free service benefits.

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