Cloud computing is one of the most important technological changes enjoyed by businesses in many years.
The cloud allows businesses to work remotely, to outsource some of their tech responsibilities, and to save money. It presents a huge range of potential benefits – but how can you make the cloud work best for you?
The cloud allows you to access the software you require as a service, rather than as a product. This means that you don’t have to install multiple versions of Office or worry about endless licence keys. Instead, you can access the software you need over the internet, with that software being installed on a server owned either by you or by a third party. There are three types of cloud: public, private, and hybrid. In the following steps we’ll be talking about the public cloud – software delivered as a service, available publicly, rather than through your own servers. So how can you use the cloud?
Backing up data can be a laborious and resource-intensive procedure, particularly if you are keeping physical disc copies. This process also has an element of security risk – what happens if a fire destroys your discs or servers? Using a cloud-based storage solution like Dropbox you can ‘monitor’ folders on your system, and have them automatically backed up when they change, without even having to click. You don’t have to dedicate time to regular backups, and Dropbox takes care of maintaining the servers for you.
The cloud is also great for working together. Rather than endless emails and track changes, you can work with colleagues on documents in real time. Services like Google Docs allow you not only to monitor changes made by other people, but also to see them happening in real time. You can also share documents with others, or choose to keep them private. Google Docs is free, but there are other potential paid-for solutions such as Microsoft’s Office 365.
Cloud computing offers some significant possible cost savings. First, and perhaps most obviously, many of the services that you might choose to use are free, at least at entry level. Companies like Dropbox offer a free storage amount, and ask you to pay if you want to extend it. Others offer business or enterprise accounts. But just as importantly, the cloud means that someone else is responsible for making sure that the servers keep ticking over. This can be a major resource saving, particularly for a small business.
Scalability is a much-maligned business buzzword. If your firm is to grow, you need the infrastructure to make that possible. Cloud services are inherently scalable, as you won’t need to buy new servers as you expand. Instead, the services that you use grow with you, for example by allowing you to add extra users or purchase more space as and when you need it.
The cloud also provides you with the opportunity to work from anywhere. You can access your files and your apps from any location, as long as you have an internet connection. This means that you can work on the go – but it can also potentially make expansion easier, allowing employees to work from home and therefore lowering overheads.
The cloud is transforming the way in which many businesses work – but it is important to remember that these technologies are still in their infancy. You need to think carefully before entrusting any business-critical data or process to a third party company. Choose your providers wisely, taking into account reputation and uptime guarantees. There are still risks to the cloud, but if you choose well you will almost certainly find that your provider does a better job of looking after your data than you could on your own.
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