Cloud computing – the silver lining for your business

You’ve probably heard the phrase cloud computing or in the cloud, but do you really understand what it means? If you don’t, it’s time to get acquainted.

You could be missing out on a better way to run your business. What’s more, the potential of the cloud will continue to change the way we work for years to come.

Why is it called ‘the cloud’?

The term cloud computing can be traced back to 1996, when some engineers and executives at Compaq produced a strategy document predicting some of the ways we’d use the internet instead of hardware in the future. Skip forward a decade, and Google defined it even better:

“…We call it cloud computing – they should be in a ‘cloud’ somewhere. If you have the right kind of browser or access, it doesn’t matter whether you have a PC, a Mac, a mobile phone, a BlackBerry – you can get access to the cloud… The computation and the data and so forth are in the servers.”

Instead of your computer or mobile device being a self-contained unit loaded with software, or full of files, all the data and computation is stored somewhere else. You simply view it on your screen via an internet connection.

What this means for businesses

By switching across to the cloud from older methods, you could save significant financial resources (and physical space) that would otherwise go to IT hardware. On the software side, you may be able to get the same functionality from a cloud based version (think old-school Adobe vs Adobe Creative Cloud) for a fraction of the price you paid before. You may even be able to access software on-demand, rather than having to pay for a copy to keep.

Collaborating and working remotely is much easier when you don’t have to be at the same physical location as your colleagues, let alone in front of the same device. As you get used to the convenience of being able to access all your normal files and programs on the go, you’ll wonder how you got anything done without it. You may even discover more efficient security, such as tighter data storage and auto backup.

What to look out for

There are a few common gripes about cloud computing. Though the cons are far outweighed by the pros, they still rate a mention. First off, there’s the fact that someone else is looking after your data, you have to trust your server provider. Internet connection is a must; it’s no good trying to access your stuff in the middle of nowhere. Then, there’s the fact that lots of cloud software subscriptions update themselves automatically – even if you don’t want them to. It might take you and/or your staff time to get used to a new version of the same program you’ve been using day in, day out.

Keen to get started?

Unless you want to do a full ‘digital transformation’, it can be a good idea to move your business IT to the cloud step by step. Here are some ways to start the process:

  1. Email systems: Move from a desktop based email system (like Outlook) to a browser-and-app based system like Gmail Work.
  2. Software license renewals: Next time a software license is due for a pricey renewal, look for a cloud based way to fulfill the same tasks and outcomes.
  3. Cloud-based security: Investigate automatic cloud based backup security – it’ll save you worrying about backing up to a thumb drive or hard disk (that can still get lost or damaged).

Even if you’re not ready to make the move just yet, the cloud certainly appears to be the way of the future and it’s a good idea to factor it in to your IT plans.