Cloud computing could simplify IT management and reduce costs for your business.
If something is 'in the cloud', it is accessed online via the internet. Cloud computing allows you to log in to IT resources online – usually by logging in to a website with a username and password – rather than managing them in your company.
In essence, you take advantage of computing power that’s outside your business, rather than relying on computers in your business.
This has two main benefits:
To access cloud computing services, you need a computer and a reliable internet connection. Cloud computing is a broad term that's also sometimes called application hosting, hosted services or software as a service.
In general, if you’re paying a subscription to access a service online instead of buying software to use in your business, that’s cloud computing. You can use it to perform lots of different tasks:
Cloud computing is well-suited to services which are used by several people in your company (like your CRM system or a collaboration tool). It’s also ideal when you need to provide access from several locations, or where it’s important you keep data off-site.
Some services are less appropriate. For instance, photo and video editing software still works best when installed on an individual computer.
Cloud computing has four main advantages over running software within your business:
Although these advantages can be significant, there is a downside. Cloud software requires a reliable internet connection. If that fails, your data is stuck where you can’t access it.
Additionally, although cloud computing providers go to great lengths to protect data, there are still risks. What happens if the company behind the hosted services goes bust or is attacked by hackers?
That’s not to say cloud computing is unsafe. In fact, often the risks are lower than those involved in managing services yourself. It’s just important to evaluate them carefully. It’s usually safest to go for big-name providers which have an established customer base.
The number of cloud services available has grown enormously in the last few years. Combined with the wide availability of good internet connections, it’s now feasible to run most areas of your business IT in the cloud, if you want to.
However, you don’t have to go that far. You can often try cloud computing at a low cost and with little risk. For instance, a service to run your company intranet should cost from £10 a month. Given the money saved over buying a server, installing intranet software and learning how to use it, that makes the cloud a very attractive option.