The IT buzzword of the decade is undoubtedly "Cloud." But what is it really? And why should businesses care so much about it?
So what exactly is cloud?
Commonly referred to as cloud computing, it’s best described as an extension on the term we know as the ’internet’.
If you run or work in a business, it’s highly likely you access some if not all of your business services via the internet.
The business information that we generate via these services normally gets stored in onsite servers or local computers at your business address.
A good example is Microsoft Office: the information generated by this program, such as account information and the emails themselves, until now has been stored locally in the server in your office.
That’s where cloud comes in. Rather than storing the business information locally, it is sent via the internet and stored in secure servers located all over the world.
The new cloud solution, Microsoft Office 365, both hosts the program and stores the information it generates in Microsoft's servers, not locally on your server.
Email is just one example. Many other programs you access for business can be hosted in the cloud:
- Dropbox is a popular secure file storage organization that can manage & store all of your files
- Google's office suite is hosted entirely in the cloud
- Basecamp is a project management solution for the cloud
It’s a big call, but we think that as of 2014, cloud can probably replace any piece of software stored locally on your business server or computer .
Why should I care?
Your bottom line can be improved when you use cloud solutions.
Without the need for locally hosted software, productivity becomes streamlined, and you will begin to notice financial savings in some of the following areas:
- Hardware: since the company hosting your files owns the hardware on which the files are stored, you eliminate, or at least reduce, the need for on-site servers.
- Software: on desktops, you purchase software which can be downloaded to your computer. In the cloud, the software runs in a web browser, and doesn’t need to be downloaded. Typically, you pay a monthly or yearly access fee. Licensing costs are dramatically reduced or completely eliminated.
- IT: because your servers now reside on the cloud providers' premises, it is their responsibility to manage any server issues. This significantly increases the efficiency of your IT resource.
- Simplicity: cloud solutions tend to come with significantly lower learning curves, meaning your employees can log in and get to work with minimal training, which has the flow on effect of increased business productivity.
Aside to the financial up-side, the cloud allows you to broaden your business footprint with ease.
It literally gives your business global access, so that no matter where your team is, they can access what they need from nearly any web-connected device: computers, tablets, even their phones.
They can do business anywhere, and that means they can find new business anywhere too.
Is it secure?
One of the most common misconceptions about Cloud is its insecurity.
Cloud computing is every bit as secure as utilizing in-house servers.
In terms of the potential for physical damage, local and cloud solutions are nearly equal. The difference lies only in location.
If a major storm or natural disaster hits New South Wales, your local servers would most likely be affected.
However, if the servers are on the other side of the country, they wouldn’t be affected, and you could be back to business much sooner because your business information has not come to harm. It’s accessible & secure.
In most cases, cloud storage is more highly protected, because cloud providers choose their server warehouses based in part on location. It wouldn't make sense to base a server warehouse in an area prone to weather-related outages.
Another common concern is the danger of security breaches with cloud providers. Of course, that possibility always exists - a hacker who wants to inflict damage can nearly always find a way to do so.
For this reason, most cloud providers have a much more robust security layer in place than the typical office setup.
Chances are your local servers are a much more attractive target.
You might already realise this - It’s actually becoming increasingly difficult to keep your business operating on a local computer or server. And it’s only going to get harder.
With the likes of Microsoft, Adobe and a world of other digital products focusing on cloud based technologies, you are being directed toward a future in the cloud if you want your business to remain productive and competitive.
And while the NBN plans aren’t as immediate as first thought, they are still in the pipeline which means that speed of information will also be better than ever in the years to come.
We’ve talked mostly here about how helpful cloud computing is, but we also think it’s important to note some of our concerns that cloud computing can have regarding you and the productivity of your business.
You can download our Pros & Cons of working in the Cloud e-Book here.
The potential for saving both time and cost make the cloud a very attractive option for small and midsize businesses.
Now that reliable internet connections are being made a reality (thanks to the future that is the NBN), cloud is a smart and viable solution for our customers, and we're here to make sure the switch goes smoothly.