Age of the Cloud

Cloud technology will create a bright future for UK business says David Stokes, chief executive IBM UK and Ireland

The cloud has undoubtedly changed the way modern business operates, and in today’s digital economy there’s little room for error. Yet, with high stakes also comes a wealth of opportunity for the UK economy.

2016 saw many dynamic, political and socio-economic shifts, which will play out over the course of the next few years. But ultimately the game changer remains the same: businesses are realising the significance of flexibility and choice when it comes to data and the cloud, and how this can help their business to accelerate growth, be successful, and stave off future competition.

From Travis Perkins to Shopdirect and Dixons Carphone, brands are witnessing how cloud technology can transform their business to create a more seamless, personalised experience for their customers, and accelerate the digital transformation of a company.

As such, it’s unsurprising we’ve seen a huge amount of investment in the UK into datacentres in the last year by major players, to support the cloud’s exponential growth.

So why a larger footprint in the UK? Well it’s uncertain how Brexit will affect the UK business landscape, but it’s obvious that data sharing is at the forefront of the international business community’s agenda.

Data, the new oil

Data is the lifeblood of an organisation, a major economic opportunity – and one that countries can tap to spur innovation, create jobs and encourage entrepreneurs to create new digital products and services. It’s effectively become the new oil – the natural resource everyone is talking about and wants a piece of, and the fuel driving digital transformation.

As businesses become much more concerned with where their data resides across all industries, from retail to health/pharma to public sector organisations, there’s no one size fits all rule. Undoubtedly, the current data-sharing landscape is changing, and that’s thanks to the cloud.

In order for businesses to gain intelligent insight from data quickly and securely, it’s clear that having flexibility and choice when it comes to data storage is the key to a successful business and ultimately supporting the UK economy.

With so many on-demand services and the explosion of connected IoT devices, which will only continue to rise in the future, control is everything. Gartner reported there would be 6.4 billion connected things by the end of 2016 alone.

Hybrid cloud

Previously, we were seeing restrictions on where companies can hold data preventing organisations from moving their businesses onto the cloud, which often involves transferring data away from the country of origin. With regional and local data centres this issue effectively disappears.

Furthermore, there is a definitive commitment from the technology industry to ensure that data resides closest to the source to enable businesses to make their move to the cloud. IBM recently announced plans to open four new cloud data centres in and around London in the next 12 months. The new data centres will give UK business greater flexibility, transparency and control over how they manage their data, enabling organisations to deploy their IT operations locally in the cloud.

In terms of flexibility and choice, the adoption of hybrid cloud is fast enabling UK business to stay one step ahead of the competition. Hybrid cloud (a mixture of on-premise and off-premise technology support) provides organisations with enormous flexibility, scalability and the potential to optimise their IT cost and performance.

Cloud computing has been pivotal in helping businesses achieve digital transformation and supporting the UK economy. We saw Cloud revenues in Western Europe grow by 20.6 per cent in Q1 2016, and IDC forecasts that worldwide revenues from public cloud services will reach more than $195bn USD in 2020.

It has also fundamentally changed the amount of data (or business oil) available, how and where we store it and the actionable insights for businesses that can be derived from it.

For organisations to remain competitive in this new digital age, it is crucial we continue to store data in the right place at the right time – so it can harvested as and when it is most valuable to businesses.

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