Blue sky thinking: Adopting the cloud

Increasingly companies are looking to cloud computing to satisfy complex technological requirements.

Five business owners tell GrowthBusiness the thinking.


We’re a legal recruitment business specialising in the recruitment of lawyers, and trademark and patent agents. We previously had two offices with a database that needed to be accessed by both offices in real time.

What we had built up was a complicated and expensive mechanism of servers and ISDN lines to ensure that our consultants could get hold of the information they needed as accurately and as efficiently as possible. The servers were coming towards the end of their life and we needed to have a look at the whole set-up. The move to a cloud-based system was a very simple and convenient solution.

IT services provider Quostar was recommended to us. We had a look at its website and read through what the company had to offer. Security was quite important to us, and reliability was key.

We were satisfied with the checks in place. I think the most likely breach would be corruption of the data. If that happens, there are two separate and distinct back-ups that would allow us to reboot. The cloud is almost more secure than a physical office that someone could break into.

The overall running costs of this system as opposed to our old system are greater. However, if you take away the time that was lost due to the unreliability of what we had previously, I think the cloud system easily pays for itself. In terms of what the move did to our profit margin, I would be very confident that it increased it dramatically.

Our experience has been very positive. It hasn’t been a cure for everything – there are still speed problems – but I don’t see us going back to a more manual system. I’m a major advocate of cloud-based systems because all we really need now is a computer than can access the internet.


As a UK-based online technology start-up with a parent company on the west coast of America, working in the cloud is fundamental to our business. From an internal wiki where we share information, ideas and processes to our ticketing system to manage the development of our platform, a big part of what we do is in the cloud.

This means that everybody in the organisation has access to everything they need to do their jobs without ever requiring anything more than a laptop and an internet connection.

As a small fast-growing company, cloud-based software makes us more nimble and flexible as we can be out on the road at meetings and still have access to all the information and software we need to run our business.

Therefore, customers get the same high- quality service as if we were all office-based. At the same time, it allows a much better work/life balance for employees, as not being at your desk doesn’t now mean you can’t be productive.
If a customer needs help with their LeadPoint account then the cloud kicks in.

Our account team can log into Salesforce, which is probably the most well-known cloud-based service, and they will be able to find a whole raft of information about the customer, wherever they are, and respond quickly.

The arrival of Google Docs over the past few years has accelerated the spread of cloud computing and our own adoption of such services.

Suddenly sales and account management tasks become more efficient and easier to coordinate as business people can log in to all manner of information and update it in real time, with multiple users able to edit documents at the same time.


At our time of adoption, cloud computing was a fairly new concept. There were limitations to the offering and support provided with the various platforms, so we didn’t plunge straight in but tried and tested a few alternatives over a six-month period.

In addition to using Google Apps for our business communication, we were moving from our existing Microsoft Exchange infrastructure, so initially our IT team moved across and the systems were set up in parallel, allowing us a complete switch to our old system should we have encountered any problems.

It was important that there was minimal disruption to our ongoing customer communications during the migration and that we were able to complete in-house training so that we had the skills to take advantage of the technologies without compromising our reputation or security.

The ongoing information provided by Google in relation to new features is easy for staff to understand and so eliminates the need for the IT department to decipher updates for our employees.

We have several Amazon-hosted servers in multiple sites. It is highly unlikely that an outage would occur across their several global locations, but we do still have the ability to turn on services in-house with limited capacity should a problem arise. This is something that is critical to us as any downtime results in loss of business.

As a global translation company we need flexibility in our infrastructure, so being able to roll out more servers when needed or offload some of our service into the cloud has enabled us to remain agile in an uncertain climate during very rapid growth. There is also the added bonus that it is more cost effective than setting up and managing our own servers in-house.


Harvard Engineering designs,develops and engineers control products for the lighting industry.  Our product, LeafNut, is a revolutionary wireless remote monitoring system for street lighting and uses technology to cut carbon emissions and reduce pollution. It is already in use by more than 30 local councils across the UK.

We deliver our product as a managed service so it has to be hosted somewhere else. We used to run everything in-house using our own hardware, but running this sort of set-up proved to be an expensive solution. As well as the cost, we also had to consider the additional space and the full-time job of our staff running it.

In order to guarantee the growth potential of the LeafNut service we decided to turn to the cloud. By having another organisation manage the infrastructure aspect of our company we could free up resources and pass the cost savings onto our customers.

The cloud allows us to concentrate on our carbon reduction philosophy, safe in the knowledge that our cloud provider is keeping the lights on.

We chose Star to manage our service, and its cloud offering means that our data is stored within the UK. The customer can manage the energy usage of each streetlight, reducing their energy consumption and in turn their carbon output. Choosing a cloud provider means that security and the worry of downtime is managed by a company that specialises in cloud hosting, giving us the time to specialise in what we do best.


Amnesty International’s mission is to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and digital communications lies at the heart of what we do. Our online presence is vital in achieving our objectives.

Prior to moving to the cloud, Amnesty dealt with multiple web and hosting agencies, which handled different parts of our digital communications. This was not an ideal situation as spikes in web activity and online demand could cause significant problems to the site, and the root cause of website issues was difficult to identify.

Our primary aim, therefore, was to consolidate all these services under one supplier, which would not only increase efficiency but also the level of service.

The move to the cloud represented a significant shift in our online strategy. While moving to the cloud has marginally increased costs, it has also significantly increased efficiency as the hidden costs of the old system, such as time wasted dealing with the multiple suppliers, are nullified.

Security is a big concern when any organisation moves to the cloud. We opted for private cloud hosting, which provides the highest level of security compared with the cheaper public cloud, and Claranet ensured that the security protocols focused not only on business security, but also improved security processes and procedures.

As our organisation continues to grow, so too will the demand placed on these sites, and moving to the cloud is the best way to ensure that our IT systems can cope with this.

Todd Cardy

Todd Cardy

Todd was Editor of between 2010 and 2011 as well as being responsible for publishing our digital and printed magazines focusing on private equity and venture capital.

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