Cloud computing is hailed as the preeminent advancement for 21st Century businesses. However, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the sheer amount of information available on the cloud and making a reliable evaluation can be time consuming and complicated. To help, we have brought together a brief guide to explain the top 5 questions frequently posed by businesses considering cloud software.
- What is cloud computing?
- Is cloud computing right for me?
- What are the benefits of cloud computing?
- Is my data secure and safe?
- How easy is it to implement cloud into my business?
1. What is cloud computing?
In very simple terms it means services and software that run from a network of servers on the Internet, instead of on local servers housed within your office or your computer. Most cloud services can be accessed through a web browser such as Safari, Firefox or Google Chrome.
Some examples of consumer cloud services that we comfortably utilise on a day to day basis include Google Drive, Adobe Creative Cloud, Apple iCloud, Netflix, Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive. These services give us the advantage of total accessibility anytime, anywhere, on any device with an internet connection.
A quick glossary of cloud terms to be aware of:
- Cloud client – refers to the device you are using to access the cloud, so this is any web enabled device i.e. PC, laptop, tablet, mobile phone
- Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) is the most basic cloud service and refers to a company using the servers and hardware provided by a third party
- Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) – requires an IaaS relationship but in addition to the physical infrastructure, a pre-defined operating system, data storage and development tools are often available
- Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) – this refers to a business accessing both infrastructure and software via the cloud
- Public cloud – is the most commonly used cloud computing model whereby a provider makes a resource such as software available via the internet
- Private cloud –a private cloud operates on the same model as the public cloud, but access to the resources is restricted to one organisation
- Hybrid cloud – a mix of public cloud and private cloud which allows data and applications to be shared between them.
2. Is Cloud computing right for me?
In January 2017, RightScale conducted its sixth annual State of the Cloud Survey of the latest cloud computing trends. Their research found that the percentage of enterprises that have a strategy to use multiple clouds grew to 85%. It’s amongst the small to medium enterprises (SME) community that the largest adoption of cloud computing is seen, which is primarily due to the accessibility that cloud offers to essential business software.
Cloud-computing services can range from data storage to functional programs, including accounting, customer service tools and remote desktop hosting. One of the most popular migrations is Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions. With the cloud, SMEs can access and benefit from the same business tools that are usually only affordable by large organisations, while maintaining lower operating costs.
3. What are the benefits of cloud computing?
The most recognised benefit of moving business applications into the cloud is cost effectiveness. There is no longer the requirement of heavy up-front investment in hardware, software and IT resources.
In addition to saving money, here are other benefits of utilising the cloud:
- Provides seamless data sharing across an organisation, increasing accessibility to data that can be used to support real-time business decisions
- Gives access at any time from any location via any web-enabled device, heightening productivity, improving customer service and sales opportunities
- Supports a variety of business processes and offers a closer link between business functions, activities and outcomes
- Delivers ‘peace of mind security’ and data safety measures
- Automatic access and updates of product innovation, new functions and features
- Reduces unproductive time by enabling users to edit, save and share even when away from the office.
So a business benefits in two distinct ways; through reduced costs and indirectly by freeing up resources to focus on core business functions.
4. Is my data secure and safe?
A credible Cloud provider will house your data in a highly secure Tier IV data centre. Access to data centres are heavily controlled and centre staff undergo rigorous security vetting. It’s usual practice for providers to employ firewalls and constantly update their anti-virus protection software. They run regular back-ups of your data, with multiple data back-up locations to protect your information from the unexpected, such as fire, flood or worse.
If, through your cloud provider, these data security measures are in place, it is likely your data is more protected in the cloud, than if held on a local office based server or on a highly vulnerable laptop.
5. How easy is it to implement cloud into my business?
Once you have decided that cloud will meet your business objectives, a good cloud provider will help you manage the process. In the case of adopting a CRM in the cloud this will include any migration of your data, user testing and most important, the training of end-users. By working with a credible provider you should enjoy a smooth transition and positive user-adoption. Whilst change can be daunting, all the stats show that cloud adoption will continue to grow and adoption opens up huge benefits to users. In the words of Bernard Shaw “progress is impossible without change.”