Is Your Business Head in the Clouds?

Cloud computing is the latest buzzword. Everyone has heard of it, most people have talked about it, but surprisingly few people know exactly what it is. Even fewer people are prepared to ask someone to explain. Yet as it’s one of the most on-trend ways of organising business tools, every business owner and manager should be aware of the incredible advantages offered by the cloud model.

What is Cloud Computing?

Most of us are familiar with the idea of online storage through programs such as Dropbox and Google Docs, for example. Many new laptops and other mobile devices are sold with a certain amount of online storage so that photos and music libraries do not become lost or corrupted if the device breaks or is stolen. If you store anything online, then you are using the cloud.

Cloud computing does away with programs stored on your hard drive. Instead, you use a web browser to access an online program which provides storage space for your data. Businesses have been quick to seize upon the many advantages of cloud computing and it is fast becoming the solution of choice for huge numbers of SMEs.

What are the advantages of Cloud Computing?

The most obvious advantage for the majority of business owners is that of cost. Where formerly a company would need to buy a licensed copy of a program and install it across a number of desktop machines, now it merely rents access to the program for a regular fee. In addition to having a cost-effective solution, the company can benefit from automatically updated software free from bugs, software clashes and corruption, which is maintained off-site at no additional cost.

It’s also known as SaaS (Software as a Service), and companies can access programs and solutions which they might not otherwise be able to afford to run. A company can subscribe to a host of tailored solutions for any number of processes. Many businesses now choose Cloud Computing for HR and its business benefits quickly become obvious. Staff can access appropriate levels of information from anywhere with internet access, meaning that information is always timely, relevant and accurate.

The cloud makes the majority of hard drives redundant, meaning many companies can save on hardware costs. As mobile devices such as tablets and netbooks are cheaper than their hard-drive equivalents, not only does the price of the hardware fall but mobility increases proportionally. Sales teams with access to customer data on the move can interact with that data meaningfully to keep it updated.

Are there disadvantages to the Cloud?

Although there seem to very few disadvantages to the cloud model of computing business, managers should explore their options before completely committing to the technology. Most business owners start with one or two cloud programs to test the water before making a bigger commitment to ensure that it is an appropriate solution.

For most people, it is data security which poses the biggest question mark, as all data is stored off-site. However, as cloud providers become more established there is a corresponding increase in security measures, meaning that the technology is becoming safer all the time.