Cloud computing is, put simply, just computing based on the internet. In the past, whenever you needed a specific piece of software or a computer programme you would have to physically install it on your computer, or to a shared server. With the cloud, businesses can access useful software and technology through the Internet, on demand.
If you think that cloud computing is a fad, not applicable to your own business, or you’re nervous of cloud computing, preferring to keep all of your files and information where you can see them – you’re probably already part of the cloud anyway. If you use Skype to keep in touch with freelancers and remote workers, host meetings with clients from around the country or globe using GoToMeeting, or use web-based mail services such as Gmail, congratulations, you’re already in. And if you’ve ever gone one step further and backed up your data online, you can consider yourself a fully paid up cloud-using member.
So why is the cloud proving so popular?
It’s cost effective
We’re all looking for ways to save money, and cloud computing can do this very effectively. No longer do you need to pay for large amounts of storage space when you have vital files that need to be backed up, and there’s no need to pay out to constantly keep your software updated.
Cloud computing gives you the option to only pay for what you need, when you need it, and pay-per-use software can save you a great deal of money in server maintenance. If you opt for SaaS (software as a service) you never have to install software onto your system yourself, which frees up your IT staff to do more important things, saving you even more time and money.
It’s easy to use
Connecting up to the cloud gives you near-instant access to software that would have taken valuable time to install on every employees machine in the past. No more waiting for the IT team to give people access or physically install software onto a computer, it’s already there to be used.
The cloud is also adaptable, so that if you’re signed up for a certain level of online storage, you can easily upgrade your package to get more storage instantly, so no waiting for servers to be installed or upgraded. You no longer have to be physically connected to a server or set up on a network; if your company’s data and files are accessible from the cloud it means that virtual staff, freelancers and home workers can access the information they need from wherever they are, as long as there’s Internet access.
The modern workforce is changing – people expect to be able to work flexibly, whether that’s working from home or while they are out on business and away from their desks. Business is becoming increasingly globalised, and cloud computing makes working flexibly so much easier for all concerned.
There’s no longer any need for client meetings to take place on site; everybody can meet up on Skype and have a virtual conference from wherever they are. This saves time and effort, is much more environmentally responsible (for small companies, the reduction in energy use and carbon emissions can be up to 90%) and enables people to get together from wherever they are in the world. If you employ freelance staff or remote workers, it’s easy to give them access to files, and keep in contact with them when they aren’t in the office.
It makes it easy for people to work collaboratively on documents and files, even if they aren’t in the same office, and documents can be edited from anywhere that has Internet access. With the cloud, your staff will even be able to access the information they need from a smart phone.
No more IT emergencies
Of course, nothing is infallible, but with cloud computing you should find that the old style ‘server’s gone down’ panic is a thing of the past. There’s no need for a disaster back-up plan if you rely on the cloud, because the service provider is on hand 24/7 to make sure that issues are resolved quickly.
In a recent study, it was shown that businesses which used the cloud managed to get issues resolved in an average of 2.1 hours, while it took non-cloud based businesses over 8 hours to solve the same problems. While your IT team is in a panic trying to restore a server or sort out a major IT issue, they could be doing something to improve your business.
As time goes by, more and more business functions will be available on the cloud, making the benefits of cloud-based working available to even more people. Books can now be published using cloud-based software, businesses have been funded via crowd funding software from all over the world, and according to Microsoft’s Bob Kelly, the cloud offers “instant gratification”
“Today you can have an idea, be funded tomorrow, and be in business the next day,” he told Business Insider magazine, “That’s a phenomenon that didn’t exist before.”
License: Creative Commons
Written by Michael Palmer, an Oxford based business graduate who works for Cezanne HR.