We're long past the point where 'the cloud' was just another piece of technology jargon. Businesses of all sizes are adopting the cloud as part of their everyday strategies.
And it's not the complex entity that many smaller companies fear. In fact, it can be a reliable, straightforward way to store data. It can also make you more productive, thanks to its ability to offer unhindered access to real-time information.
It's very likely that parts of your business already run on the cloud. There may be a strong argument for moving more of it there. Here are four reasons to get you thinking.
Technology is crucial to your business, but storing and handling data can place serious demands on your IT resources. Keeping your IT up to date in the face of ever-increasing processing requirements is tricky.
But cloud computing can revolutionise how you approach refreshing and replacing hardware and software in your business.
Typically, IT infrastructures are reviewed every three to five years. If replacement hardware is required, this can be costly.
When you switch to the cloud, you get a stable, predictable solution that requires fewer manual updates and less maintenance overall (that's because your cloud provider should take care of these items). It also relieves you of the burden and cost of servers and other equipment.
The cloud gives you continual access to your business systems. They can be accessed any time of the day, from any location (as long as you have an internet connection).
If you have sales teams on the road or people who tend to work from home, this accessibility makes it easier to stay in touch, coordinate work and give people access to what they need.
What's more, this accessibility is only set to improve. Fast 4G mobile networks are spreading across the UK, and public Wi-Fi is available more widely than ever.
At the same time, the way teams work within a business is changing. The number of remote workers is increasing. Give them access to the cloud and they can be much more productive. For instance, automatic document uploads make it much easier to work together.
This gives you a competitive advantage in many ways. With location less of a barrier, you can access a pool of talent that stretches across the country, or even the globe. Remote working can make your employees happier, too – leading to increased staff retention.
When serious breaches happen, they're big news. High-profile hacks have placed cloud computing under scrutiny, encouraging providers to boost security measures and test them regularly.
Although private cloud services are a good option if your business needs to store really sensitive data, cloud services generally offer excellent security.
Most providers implement strong physical security, with round-the-clock monitoring and surveillance. Other measures to protect servers include high perimeter fences, bollards, security checkpoints, biometric security controls, and 24/7 security teams.
Together with active monitoring that identifies and blocks network attacks - plus automated backups - using the cloud can dramatically improve security.
Richard Kennedy, head of cloud computing at The Cloud Simplified, explains further:
"When migrating to the cloud, security is a common concern. Where is my data located, who has access to it and what measures are in place to protect it?"
"If your business has a noisy, dusty server sitting in the corner of the office, consider this: how safe is your data right now? What's stopping someone from physically removing it from your premises and what measures are in place to protect your information from a disaster or human error?"
Moving everyday business data and processes to the cloud can deliver significant savings. For starters, it reduces the need for in-house equipment, cutting your energy costs.
Additionally, running servers in-house usually means investing heavily in maintenance and support. By moving to the cloud, you reduce this expenditure. Most cloud services require minimal outlay upfront. You just pay a regular monthly fee.
Finally, cloud computing protects your business from IT-related financial loss by reducing the risk of hardware failure from incidents such as fire, flood or break in.
The capabilities of cloud computing have progressed enormously even within the last three years. If your business isn't ready to leap to the cloud, you can move in small increments instead. As your knowledge of and trust in the cloud builds, you'll start to see your entire company benefit.
Copyright © 2015 Rebecca Moore