This is a short guide to bring you up to speed with the future of business operations.
Defining Cloud computing:
Cloud computing is essentially outsourcing the processing and storage capabilities of a traditional PC to an external internet based service. A true fully-fledged cloud computing service would mean the speed for running the program and size of the files is not dependent on your local PC but rather dependent on a communal server and database.
- Running the program (processing power) is outsourced
- Storage of data is outsourced
- Connect to your programs via the internet
What is the big deal about the cloud?
Cheap: As time goes by programs become more sophisticated and require more and more computing resources to operate. Computers used for work purposes are generally upgraded every four to five years. However, with cloud computing, you need a good internet connection. The processing and data is outsourced which means an older computer can still operate effectively - although you may need to upgrade RAM storage (which is quite cheap). The apps to choose from a cloud business platform are usually cheaper and more scalable to suit business growth.
Portable: A fully fledged cloud computing program should operate through the browser or at least via a downloadable "app". Thus, no matter where you go, you can access your entire office documents and programs via mobile, desktop, tablet whether you are at home, in the office or on the move it should not make it a difference where you are as you can effectively "take the office with you". Changing office locations is a breeze - simply plug out of the old office location; plug into the new office location, and away you go! No messing around with backups, server down-times and data migration issues.
Efficient allocation of IT resources: No computer crashes or data integrity issues. Programs run independently of each other via the browser, which means there shouldn't be any random program conflicts causing computer crashes. Data is managed by the cloud server, so data integrity is fully maintained. Programs are also very easy to start up and use.
Supports teamwork: Collaboration and team discussion is much easier on cloud supported programs. Since each user is connecting to a central storage location over the internet, real time team collaboration is easy and there is no risk of data duplication or corruption, which you may have with moving off the system.
Data backup is a given: There is little need to have sophisticated onsite and offsite storage backup. Cloud based programs backup in real time, as you make a change the data is updated and stored to a server external from the office. Retrieving different backed up versions can be done via variety of apps available from cloud business platforms.
Always up-to-date: Program version conflicts will be in the past! The programs you use are updated via the central server you connect to. This ensures you are always using the latest and greatest version of the program.
Be part of the “In-Crowd”: To use cloud computing apps, start by choosing a cloud-based platform to work with (some of the more common ones include Google Apps for Work, Apple's App store for Business and Microsoft Store). Since you are sharing a platform with millions of users you can rest assured, via the user ranking system, that you are using the most popular and favourite business apps in use.
What are the risks?
- Internet Access: Internet connection is important - if you have no, or slow, access to internet it will significant hinder your use of cloud computing as the program is run off a central off-site server.
- Password theft: Just like your email, most business apps simply require an email address, or username, and password. This means if your password is stolen, access to the program could be an issue. However, this can be mitigated as many programs have two-step verification process where you need password and a SMS code is sent to your phone in order to "register" the device (PC, mobile or tablet) to the program for future logins.
- Security: Many people query security of cloud computing in relation to hacking etc. The reality is that the security protecting the data is more sophisticated than the security of your local server. Companies such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple spend billions of dollars, constantly upgrading their security protection from new and old breaches (which would only occur via passworf theft as explained above). You are arguably more secure moving to the cloud as someone hacking your local Wi-Fi and server wouldn't be of use to these information thieves as data is stored externally on the cloud servers.
What are your next steps?
Sold on the idea, that is great! But where to now? Well you will need to assess which cloud platform to work with. Check them out and find the right one that will best work for you.
Taking advantage of moving fully to the cloud poses great advantages to business with very little risks and downsides. However, using the cloud works best if you use it for everything, rather than having one foot in the cloud and half a foot locally - this will significantly hinder the benefits of the cloud and create unnecessary confusion.
Take the leap, you won’t regret it!
For more information about cloud computing and the best software for you (and your business), please contact the expert contributor.