In the beginning
Stuff has a way of multiplying. You know how it is - when you move into your first apartment, it’s virtually empty for 12 months, with just the bare essentials: a bed, a fridge, and TV maybe. Then gradually, you start kitting it out and within a few years, you’ve totally filled your starter home. Each draw is jammed with clothes and documents, bookcases crammed full of books and magazines and you daren’t open the cupboards for the risk of the contents cascading on you. It’s clear you need a bigger pad. You move, but five years on, you’re back in the same situation. There are so many bags, containers, and files that you can’t move around - it’s a fire hazard and an insurance risk. Packing it all up into boxes, finding a big enough place, then unpacking it all again could take ages - if only you could externalise it somehow.
You will have heard people talking about moving their electronic content to the cloud. Is it just a buzzword or a passing phase? No, it’s the only realistic way to run your business and to assure quality and competitiveness. Like the story about collecting personal property above, you probably started off buying a computer with plenty of storage capacity, but however much there was (even though it doubled with each model), it wasn’t long before you needed to add some external storage too. Have you got old pen drives stuffed away in draws - somewhere? Do you spend ages trying to locate files? And what about when you’re working away or need to access your work while on holiday? Do you drag the whole lot around with you and risk losing it or leave essential data at home? None of this is necessary with cloud computing.
You'll like cloud computing!
The cloud is the Internet, so the Internet becomes your business infrastructure and your office, wherever you are - even in remote places. This gives you personal, as well as business flexibility
So what exactly is the cloud?
The cloud is a stack of commoditized machines providing computing and storage capability. That means they are affordable and interchangeable. Your data is hosted on remote servers, not in your physical environment. The only thing you need in order to access the cloud is a browser or mobile interface. Think of the Internet itself as an example. You don’t need to keep a room full of encyclopaedias; you just need to be able to search data online.
The cloud is the Internet, so the Internet becomes your business infrastructure and your office, wherever you are - even in remote places. This gives you personal, as well as business flexibility, opening up your options and putting your entire business empire inside your phone or device.
If you use public cloud services, you pay only for the computing power used by your software, data storage, and the data transfer. You don’t have to pay for the hardware to get the benefit of it as it’s an all-inclusive service. If you use a private cloud supplier, buying many small servers is usually a cheaper option than buying a full-blown monster server. It’s also a better scenario for disaster recovery by not putting all your eggs in one basket.
There are many ready-made cloud solutions for you to choose from and integrate into one, complete business tool. Examples include Google Apps, Atlassian Jira, Salesforce, GoToMeeting, Zendesk and many more. They are easy to integrate because they live in the cloud and they speak a similar language.
The business argument
OK, I get the picture but how do cloud services apply to my business?
1) Get with it or perish
It’s now estimated that 90 percent of SMEs are using at least one cloud service. What does that tell you? If you haven’t started using the cloud, then it’s a wake-up call. In all market sectors, the early adopters gain a head start while the laggards are just that, always having to play catch-up and struggling to survive.
2) Become more competitive and punch above your weight
Technology is democratising and gives the little guy a fighting chance. These days, you don’t need to invest in prime, A-class office space to be credible. You can develop an attractive website and present your company as a respectable enterprise with minimal capital expenditure or running costs. Likewise, cloud-based services give you affordable access to the latest technology, enabling you to compete on an equal footing with bigger players in your business sector.
Cloud computing makes you more competitive by enabling you to do more for your customers and meet their needs faster than the opposition can. Speed, agility and flexibility are paramount in competitive markets and the company with greater cloud usage is sure to gain the edge on their competitors.
What do you say?
Technology is democratising and gives the little guy a fighting chance. These days, you don’t need to invest in prime, A-class office space to be credible. You can develop an attractive website and present your company as a respectable enterprise with minimal capital expenditure or running costs.
3) Have greater flexibility
One of the biggest problems for younger businesses is predicting demand and workflow. Ironically, a rapid increase in demand could actually be the death of your business as your systems crash, overloaded and unable to cope.
By using cloud services, you can scale-out and scale-in very quickly to adapt to i.e. sudden network traffic bursts or peaks. So if you run a very successful advertising campaign, you will not lose the extra business generated by high volume website traffic.
4) Manage disaster recovery
The very term can send a shiver down your spine. What if the unthinkable should happen, your systems fail and you lose essential data? Apps located in the cloud are a safer choice because the cloud is professionally maintained. The data is backed up and the systems are regularly upgraded. For example, CrashPlan and SOS Online Backup give storage space combined with automatic, regular backups.
Have you been meaning to back up your files lately, or if you’re honest, for the last ten years? Don’t leave it to chance and don’t expose yourself to unnecessary vulnerability and risk, outsource disaster recovery by using a cloud-based service.
5) Improve your security
Closely allied to disaster recovery is the issue of security. Do you know how secure your website and stored data is? We’re always hearing of spectacular hackings in the news. Unless you can afford to hire a network and security specialist, your company could be a sitting duck, open to attack.
There are many ways to make cloud apps as secure as a bank, and although network connected devices are constantly attacked by bots exploring common vulnerabilities of computer systems, they are usually much more secure than privately administered computers.
6) Save money
Cloud services result in two major savings, capital expenditure and overheads. You don’t need to invest in expensive hardware and software or pay for regular upgrades. You have cheap access to the latest equipment and updates are automatic and free.
7) Improve document management and sharing
Cloud applications, such as Google Drive, OpenDrive, and Just Cloud, for example, enable document sharing and collaboration. This is particularly useful where a document needs to be worked on by a number of people over a period of time. No longer do people need to ask, ‘Is this the right version I’m working on?’ as we can all work on the same document, updating it in real time. This functionality is not limited to just a handful of people, Zip Cloud, for example, offers an unlimited number of accounts and team sharing of documents. So not only is cloud computing more efficient, it can influence your company’s approach to team working.
Still got cold feet?
If you still have some doubts then you are not entirely alone. The main reasons that some companies hold back on migrating to the cloud are because of concerns about data privacy and security. Many industries have their own regulations about how and where data can be stored. However, this is not a reason not to use cloud storage, just a reminder to check the small print and make sure your provider meets the compliance standards.
As mentioned earlier, rather like plane crashes, audacious hacks make the news, giving a distorted and disproportionate perception of the dangers. For sure, most cloud storage systems are likely to be more secure than your own but there’s also an extra layer of security coming onto the market in the form of Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASB). Think of these as security guards and gatekeepers looking after the flow of your data to and from cloud-based services.
All in all, it isn’t a case of if you should use cloud-based apps and services but which aspects of your business activity should move first. Then you need to ask whether you want to use a proprietary brand or if you need a customised app developing specifically for your company.
Writing applications that work in the cloud is quite easy for those who know how. All you have to do is to find a good partner who knows how to go about it. That isn’t always so easy but luckily, here at Javeo, that’s exactly what we do.
We’re ready to take your enquiry and discuss how we can help make your business more cloud-focused.
To move your business to the next level and join the cloud generation, just contact us.