Cloud computing grows in popularity amongst contractors and SMEs

Thursday 6 August 2015

According to a survey by BT Business and the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), smartphones and cloud-based computing are transforming the way that the UK’s small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are doing business.

Overall, 69 per cent of the 319 businesses surveyed were already using cloud technology to allow workers to remotely access data, even when away from the office. When asked if they were critical to maintaining current working practices, 53 per cent agreed.

On average, workers use six different cloud-based applications per month, and 79 per cent expect that demand for the system will rise in the coming year. It was also found that 83 per cent of those surveyed preferred cloud applications to those found on traditional computing systems, suggesting that the design of the newer software is easier to use.

A total of 68 per cent of respondents said that smartphones had made the biggest change to their working practices in the last 12 months, followed by better Wi-Fi (54 per cent) and cloud computing (42 per cent).

Danny Longbottom, BT Business’ managing director for UK SMEs, said: "Technology is at the heart of a lot of the dramatic changes we're seeing within the UK SME market - whether that's offering the realistic possibility of working from home, increasing the effectiveness of people when they're out of the office or opening up new markets, both in the UK and internationally.

At the heart of these new innovations is an increased level of flexibility and mobility. This should be of particular interest to contractors, who may need to access files while visiting clients, or keep track of office administration while out and about.

In fact, the new ways in which contractors are working seem to reflect wider trends in UK businesses. Nine out of ten (91 per cent) of those who participated in the survey said they had at least one employee who worked remotely, and 19 per cent had half their workers or more performing their roles outside the office.

Last year, legislation was introduced that allows any employee who has been at a company more than 26 weeks the right to request flexible working arrangements. This means the number of remote workers is expected to grow as more people take advantage of the new rules. Technology such as cloud computing makes this new move away from traditional offices possible, and is helping speed up the process.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 2.4 million employees worked from home in the first three months after the new law was passed - representing just under 14 per cent of the UK workforce.

The online economy is currently valued at £28 billion the UK, reflecting the growing role new technologies plays in people’s lives, whether at home or at work. What’s more, blurring the distinction between the two could have a positive effect on freelancers, many of whom work from home offices.

By Victoria McDonnell

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