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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 7 — Upgrading a laggy, clunky 20-year-old IT system today is no longer the dreaded nightmare it used to be.
And getting a well-oiled, well-supported IT system with the latest productivity tools for SMEs is not only easier and faster these days, it’s also significantly cheaper too.
Thanks to cloud computing, small-to-medium enterprises can have the same systems and business tools that giant MNCs use without a huge bill for expensive hardware or a round-the-clock IT team.
“In the past, SMEs could only afford cheap servers and software that is less reliable and secure. When the system goes down, the harassed IT guy might take hours to figure things out,” says Vincent Choy, Senior Consultant at Fedelis Sdn Bhd, an award-winning systems integrator outfit focused on niche and emerging ICT technologies.
SMEs can now ditch those old in-house servers and subscribe to cloud-based email and collaboration tools, such as Google for Work or Microsoft 365.
For small subscription fees, cloud-based services bring SMEs the economies of scale that only huge companies or multi-national corporations used to enjoy.
“What used to cost hundreds of thousands or even millions to deploy and maintain can now be at your fingertips for as little as RM50 a month,” Choy stressed.
“It has now become so affordable, a fraction of the price it used to be, to give your business a more stable and cutting edge IT department that the big companies enjoy.”
This advantage applies not just to email and word-processing, but to the necessary back-office chores from leave management and approval, to travel and expense claims and time-tracking.
Choy notes that in Europe and the US, SMEs are automating business processes, from emails to internal communications, from sales and commissions tracking to document digitisation. Just 10 years ago, this kind of automation would have cost a prohibitive amount beyond what any SME could afford.
The declining price of computing and the growing access everywhere to the cloud means harnessing IT as an enabler for business is essential for any SME that wants to maintain its competitive edge.
“To see IT purely as an expense is a mistake. IT is a powerful enabler, which SMEs can harness to improve efficiency and productivity, and to get real-time data and analysis to lift revenue, sales and performance,” says Choy.
“The cost of IT should be treated in the same way as the cost of sales because it allows SMEs to maintain performance with fewer resources.
“Moving your IT department into the cloud means that your IT needs are no longer the domain of just one IT personnel, but entire teams,” said Choy.
“For instance, with Office 365, Microsoft does all the managing, updates and maintenance. If a server goes down, Microsoft fixes it. It’s 99.9 per cent uptime without all the headache and mess of an in-house system,” Choy detailed.
Businesses can have access to Word, Excel, Outlook and others in the Microsoft Office family from anywhere, any device. All that is needed is an internet connection.
Being subscription based, it can also be easily scaled up or down depending on how the number of users change – a common SME scenario.
“As part of a boutique firm in a big playing field, we understand the challenges faced by SMEs all too well,” he adds.
“If your sub-par systems stop you from getting your great idea out there fast, it’s like not having any system at all. Cloud applications are the game changers for savvy SMEs.”
* Vincent Choy can be contacted at [email protected] for more practical advice.
** He is among only 966 of Microsoft’s Most Valuable Professional (MVPs) in the world, for his active participation giving guidance in forums and running monthly educational seminars. MVP status is awarded to individuals, rather than vendors, who have contributed to the Microsoft ecosystem.
*** This is part 2 of a 3-part series. Next: Fact not myth – being social at work amps productivity.