If you've ever used Facebook, you already understand the cloud. The application is readily available from any device without you having to install any special software. The pictures uploaded to Facebook are hosted there, so they remain there even if the computer you used to upload them is stolen or destroyed, and they are easily shared with friends and family.The term "cloud," simply defined, refers to the practice of using shared processing and storage capabilities of many datacenters, computers, or servers online rather than on a single computer, server, or datacenter hosted and maintained at your facility. Within the cloud, you can store your data, host your software, and perform various tasks. For example, Microsoft Office 365 provides your team with a comprehensive suite of industry-leading business software , including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Publisher and more, all for a low monthly fee. Because your software and data are stored outside of your device, your work can be easily accessed anywhere, any time, and from any device. The cloud also facilities sharing and collaboration.
Before Office 365, users (or their IT support teams) had to purchase software for each computer, install it on each computer, install patches and maintenance updates on each computer, provide for file storage and backup, devise workarounds for file sharing and version control — and often start all over again for every major operating system upgrade. If this reminds you of the old cliché, "when I was your age, we had to walk to school 15 miles in the snow…" you’re not too far off.
There are many ways in which the cloud can benefit your business. Here are a few of the most important ones:
Low Up-Front Costs & Flexible Bandwidth
Unlike the old "software in a box" model, cloud software is available with low up-front costs. A simple monthly fee per user replaces the capital expenditure, and costs for ongoing upgrades and patches disappear. Cloud applications offer virtually unlimited scalability, processing power, and data storage.
Disaster Recovery & Continuity
Imagine if a natural disaster wiped out your facility, destroying all of your computers and servers. Cloud-based applications and data will be ready when you are. As soon as you have the means to get back online, you could be back in business.
Cloud applications don’t care if you're on Windows 8 or Window 10, or a Mac, or an iPhone. The software is constantly updated behind the scenes and ready for your use.
From faster decision making, to enhanced collaboration, cloud-based applications make it easier than ever for people to work together.
Work from Anywhere
Because your applications are device-agnostic, your staff can work from anywhere and at any time. In fact, businesses now have to take steps to ensure that they are not violating labor and overtime laws.
Document & Version Control
Cloud applications allow multiple users to work on the same files — even in real time. Version control and document access management are baked into those applications.
Lost laptops and other devices pose a serious risk for small to mid-sized businesses. By simply changing the password, the missing laptop will no longer be able to access your critical applications and data.
Today, even the smallest SMBs can harness the power of sophisticated, enterprise-level applications now that delivery and support for those applications have been efficiently integrated into a per-user per-month model.
Reduce Carbon Footprint
Cloud-based applications reduce your need for large, on-site datacenters, along with the square footage, power, climate control, and other costs associated with operating them.
Easy to Use
Cloud applications are generally easy to use, and employees can quickly transition familiarity with one application to another. Long gone are the days when employees had specific, non-transferrable skills based on mainframes or other on-site technology.
File Storage & Backup
File storage is baked in to most cloud applications, and the service provider assumes responsibility for making sure the files you upload are available for you when you come back.
Powerful Processing on Demand
By using the power of many processors, surges in processing needs can be easily absorbed by the cloud. If you tried to replicate this in your own datacenter, you would have to plan your processing capacity around the anticipated high-water mark of your computing needs — and you could still be wrong.
Many cloud applications have been developed with regulated industries in mind. They have already planned for the compliance and reporting functionality your organization will require.
Helps Organizations Take Advantage of BYOD
As employees and other stakeholders have become accustomed to bringing their own devices (BYOD), organizations save money on equipment while making cloud applications available.
Helps IT Department Add Value
So what does the IT department do now that it doesn't have to walk around with CD-ROMs installing software? Innovate, upgrade, automate business processes, and add value for internal and external customers, that’s what.
Bonus Tip: Not sure how to get started with cloud computing? A high-quality Managed Service Provider (MSP), like Vology, can help you evaluate your options, develop and implement a plan, and monitor your progress.