"Cloud services lower the cost of doing business," says Timperley. "As a result of these savings, we've had clients who were able to drop the price of their products and services. Their competitors could not understand how they were able to undercut market-related pricing when they all had the same input costs?"
Timperley says SMEs find it easier to adopt cloud strategies because they are more agile and that the move into the cloud enhances this agility even further. "A business that is owner-managed is usually quick to make decisions, and it's becoming increasingly obvious to switched-on business owners that cloud services are quick to implement, cost less in absolute terms and need less management. In 10 year's time, the idea of loading software onto an individual machine will come to seem ridiculous."
He says the most popular cloud services include hosted email via Google, Office 365 or smaller providers, apps like SalesForce, Pastel Evolution, SAP Business One and Xero, and cloud storage providers like OneDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox.
"Some of these services are free, which makes them especially attractive to startups and micro-businesses," says Timperley. "As a business grows and needs more specialised services or more security, value-added options are also available at very low cost."
But cost alone would not be enough to drive the move, adds Timperley. "The real attraction is the fact that it's so quick and easy to add new services without having to go through intermediaries. Whether it's a new email account, a new user on the accounting system or an extra terabyte of storage, it can be done with a few mouse clicks."
The one critical enabler for all of this, of course, is internet connectivity: "The cloud-enabled business relies on connectivity, in some ways even more than it relies on electricity," says Timperley. "We've learned to have batteries, solar backups and generators for when Eskom fails us - and in the same way we need to have backups when internet provision fails. Fortunately, because there is competition in the connectivity market between access mediums as well as between providers, there are second- and third-tier failover options."
Timperley predicts SMEs will develop much closer and more demanding relationships with their ISPs: "Businesses need partners who can help them make strategic decisions about which services and infrastructure to invest in, and how to get the best available service within their budget. Customer service is now a critical differentiator between ISPs."