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Cloud Computing – Benefits for Businesses
Not that long ago, many businesses were held back online by poor connections to the Internet. Some businesses didn’t even have a permanent link to the internet and relied on a modem in the corner of the office, which would be turned on every so often to check emails. This all seems very distant, but actually, we’re only talking ten or fifteen years ago. These days, however, technology has moved on, and it’s rare to find a company that doesn’t have a fast, “always-on” connection to the Internet, capable of doing so much more than simply sending and receiving electronic mail.
This is where Cloud Computing has started making a real impact in the way businesses operate, and as we will discover, there are many benefits.
First of all, if you use the cloud-based software within your company, you can immediately see a reduction in IT expenditure. Applications no longer need to be installed and maintained on individual computers, and the need to upgrade software becomes a thing of the past. In most cases, cloud-based software is managed for you, with regular updates provided seamlessly. You can also save a serious amount of money by purchasing software licenses for the number of users that will actually be working at any one time, rather than one for each member of staff, or each computer.
Reduced Support Needs
You may also discover that the level of in-house IT support required by your company is significantly reduced. Cloud-based software is used in real time by many thousands of people, so it rarely goes wrong, and the level of support you require will be limited only to configuration and operational issues. All maintenance and upgrades to your cloud software are done off-site by a cloud computing software provider. You never need to get involved in upgrades or maintenance yourself.
Work from Anywhere
Because cloud-based software and files are available from everywhere, your business may also benefit from allowing staff to work from home or via mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablet computers. For example, if you have salespeople who spend a lot of time traveling, it may be more efficient for them to use a mobile device to update records and prepare quotes, rather than traveling to a central office to use their computer. With cloud-based file systems, important documents and templates can be accessed from anywhere, and are updated in real time, and since everything is in one central location rather than on individual computers, everyone can be assured they are working on the latest version of the document.
For many businesses, scalability is a factor in any IT system. If your business expands, you need the flexibility to quickly add more resources for your staff to use. Whereas this used to involve a wide range of additional hardware and software, with cloud computing it may only require a phone call to a cloud computing software provider asking for an increased number of licenses. Workstations will only require a basic setup with access to the Internet, so you can quickly and easily add to your workforce without getting bogged down with IT logistics. Similarly, if you need to reduce your capacity – for example, if your business is seasonal, then the opposite is usually true and you can scale down your business during slow periods and only pay for the software you’re actually using.
But… How does it Work?
It’s at this point that many managers who are considering deploying cloud computing in their company start to wonder… This is all very good, but how does cloud computing actually work? It’s natural to be curious if you’re considering putting your business and faith into a system.
Cloud computing services are provided by servers operating in data centers. Theoretically, a cloud service could run on just one server, but in reality, a number of servers are usually employed to increase availability and provide redundancy in case a server goes wrong. These servers may all be in one data center or spread out over a number of different centers around the country, or around the world. This infrastructure means that whenever you save a file or change a document, you never really know where “geographically” your file has been saved to. All you know is that your file is “somewhere” – hence the terminology “in the cloud.” You can always find your files again by using your software.
This method makes your computer system incredibly robust since a copy of your data could be spread across a number of different servers globally. The chances of the entire system going down are extremely remote. This gives you confidence in your system and the knowledge that your data will be available whenever you need it. This remote hosting across multiple servers also acts as a super-efficient backup service, meaning your data is secure.
All of these features are of benefit to companies of all sizes if computers and files are used extensively throughout the business. Everything about cloud computing promotes the idea of sharing and collaboration, as well as making life a lot easier. For example, with a central file store online, there is no need for employees to email each other files that are only stored on their local computers. Files can also be shared more intelligently, and advanced features can be employed to promote more efficient working practices. For example, many software packages can inform users when important files have been replaced with a new version.
Finally, perhaps one of the most important features of cloud computing is its ability to be deployed “cross-platform.” In other words, it doesn’t matter if you use a PC, Mac, iPad or any other type of device, as long as you have a supported browser and a connection to the internet, you should be able to access a full range of services, such as email, file sharing, CRM, automated backup, collaboration, and a full suite of office applications. Users are free to decide the hardware they wish to use, full in the knowledge it will be compatible.
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