Cloud Computing for SME Providers at a Glance (Part II)

Cloud solutions are now available for companies of all sizes. Both sole proprietorships and small and medium-sized companies can use these systems. There are also corresponding solutions for very large companies with several thousand employees. But how do SMEs manage to switch to the cloud?

The first step is the choice of the provider. The well-known providers Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud or Amazon Web Services offer almost identical cloud solutions, but there are some minor differences. Which of these are will be described in detail later. Each provider has different offers with different scope of services in their portfolio. These are mostly mapped in plans (also called subscription plans). This involves the number of licenses required, the storage space, the performance and the desired services. But there are also other criteria that play a role in the selection. This will also be discussed in more detail later. First of all, it should be described how the transition to cloud computing will work out.

Once the number of licenses required is known, the setup begins. It begins with the integration of the company domain into the system. An account is then created for every employee who uses a PC workstation. In this account, authorizations for the use of various apps as well as access to certain storage spaces and services can be set. This means that all employees can log into the system with their personal log-in data. The administrator still has control over the individual user accounts.

A complete switch to a cloud service is not always necessary or useful.

Sometimes these systems are also integrated as additional solutions in the factories. Some of the operational data then remains on the company’s own servers, which are hosted by the company itself. However, the work then takes place directly in the cloud. Since the cloud systems are very flexible, each operations manager can decide for himself to what extent the switch should take place.

Since the transition is a big challenge for many companies, most cloud providers also offer help. They send experts to the companies who then migrate the data and set up the entire system on site. As a result, normal business operations can continue without restriction until the switch to cloud computing is implemented and ready for use.

Is Microsoft Azure / Microsoft 365 worthwhile for SMEs?

The best-known provider of cloud services is Microsoft with the services Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365. There are offers for private users and for companies to choose from.

  • The business versions of Microsoft 365 are available for companies with up to 300 workstations.
  • If you need more than 300 accounts in your company, you can fall back on Microsoft 365 Enterprise. There are no limits in this area. The enterprise versions of Microsoft 365 are therefore also suitable for large companies or corporations.

Business accounts are usually the best choice for SMEs.

There are three different plans in this area. They range from basic to premium. All web applications are included in the basic account. In addition to the pure Office 365 apps, there are more than 20 other apps available. This includes applications for process control, video recording and various communication tools. Communication plays a very important role in Microsoft 365 anyway. In addition to the familiar Outlook, there are also the following tools for communication:

  • Teams
  • Kaizala
  • Yammar

These apps can be used to send text, voice and video messages. Communication takes place in real time. Data can also be saved in a central location. This means that all employees who have the appropriate authorization have access to the data they need for their areas of responsibility at all times. Collaboration between several employees on one document is also possible at any time. Microsoft Azure also offers many useful administration tools for managing virtual machines, servers and clients. The areas of responsibility of individual employees can be precisely defined.

EXTRA: How to optimize your IT infrastructure in the home office

It is not possible to make a general statement about which companies Microsoft Azure is worthwhile or not.

However, many companies have a problem with the fact that Microsoft is a US company. Problems with the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR for short, could arise very quickly. This stipulates that personal data may not be stored on servers outside the European Union.

However, this data protection problem has now been solved: Microsoft also operates server locations in Europe and also in Germany. In addition, Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365 are sold through partner companies that are not subject to American law. These also offer Microsoft cloud services as a European cloud or a German cloud. This means that entrepreneurs are on the safe side with regard to data protection.

Which companies is the Google Cloud suitable for?

Google is without a doubt one of the largest online companies. Therefore, there is also the Google Cloud with many useful functions for SMEs: In addition to a large online storage, there are various plans for smaller and larger companies. In addition to the office applications, which are also executed directly in the cloud, numerous apps are also available from this provider for communication inside and outside the company. In terms of scope of services, Google hardly differs from Microsoft’s offer. This also applies to the pricing.

It is sometimes claimed that the word and table processing programs are not 100 percent compatible with the products of the market leader Microsoft, but this disadvantage does not matter. Problems can arise with large documents with complex formatting. Here it is important to check which documents and files your company is working with. So the Google cloud contains everything a company needs. Whether Google offers a better cloud solution than Microsoft cannot be answered.

Microsoft benefits from the fact that office applications have been the standard for many years.

However, there are also critical voices because the applications are overloaded with functions. Google is taking a different route. The office applications are provided with all functions that are required in the business area. In addition, countless add-ons are available with which the range of functions can be individually expanded.

With regard to the GDPR, the Google Cloud also has to choose server locations in Europe. When booking some plans, the customer can even choose where the servers should be located. Therefore, there are no legal problems to fear with this provider either. Both Microsoft and Google offer free trials. So if you are not entirely sure which cloud solution is best for your own company, you can test the systems free of charge and without obligation. This test should definitely be used. Because often it is only in practical use that it becomes apparent where there are problems. The operators also offer extensive customer support during the test phase.

Amazon Web Services as a cloud alternative?

When it comes to cloud solutions, Amazon Web Services cannot be missing. This service is also called AWS and offers the user a high level of utility. However, the AWS are somewhat different from the cloud services from Microsoft and Google. First and foremost, Amazon offers a storage space. However, numerous business applications can be integrated into it. These can be evaluation or analysis tools as required. Apps for customer service, databases or in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) are also available.

The Amazon Web Services can be designed individually depending on the company, so that this service is suitable for almost every SME.

The simple operation is particularly advantageous. Although some of the applications are complex, they can be used easily and without extensive training. AWS can also be used in many countries. Since there are also server locations in Europe, users do not have to worry about any problems with the GDPR. This is also an advantage that should not be underestimated. Choosing the right provider is therefore not that easy. In any case, it is advisable not to choose a cloud provider lightly. It is a decision that will have a long-term impact on operations. External advice on the right choice is recommended here.

The advantages of the cloud providers at a glance

After the detailed description of the most important providers in this area, a small, clear presentation may be helpful.

  • Microsoft: The office applications from this provider have been standard and very well known for many years. It is therefore easy for everyone involved to switch to cloud computing.
  • Google: This provider is better known from the search engine. The lean applications, which are provided with the most necessary functions, are particularly advantageous.
  • Amazon: Probably everyone knows this provider as an online shop operator. However, the individually scalable Amazon Web Services are also offered.

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