Although it feels relatively new, having taken hold as a buzzword over the past five years or so, cloud computing is actually as old as the internet. What has changed to make it a household name is the evolution of devices to more effectively deliver cloud-based services. That means anyone who has used a computer, smartphone, or tablet say, in the last decade, has used cloud technology and services.
Some of our favourite online brand names – Gmail, Outlook, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo – store their data in the cloud and the public is eager to access its smooth, speedy interface at all hours of the day and night. Businesses have been warier. Before the cloud became ubiquitous, there was doubt—is my sensitive data really safe out there?
Businesses are coming to terms with the functionality, flexibility, and reliability of storing information in the cloud. In 2017, 64% of businesses were running at least partly in the cloud, and by 2020, 78% of businesses are expected to shift completely to the cloud. This means the prediction that “the cloud is the future” isn’t altogether true—more accurately, the future is here now.
The cloud is secure, affordable, and efficient. Its services are customizable and globally accessible, which opens unlimited possibility for data sharing and collaboration. Businesses in the cloud don’t lose data because it updates in real time, and version upgrades to software are automatic and immediate. These and other benefits of cloud computing are well-known—but do we know exactly what they mean? What can businesses actually do in the cloud, and what will that mean for operations?
Software as a Service (SaaS)
The main way nearly any company can take advantage of what the cloud has to offer is through software as a service (SaaS) applications. Examples you may already be using are web-based email and calendars, document software like Microsoft 365, sales record programs like Salesforce, internet conferencing tools, and project or time tracking software. These tools are productivity-focused and completely integrated into your company’s daily operations. There is no software to download or updates to search for—these tools can be accessed by anyone with the correct login and password and can be shared by anyone with the authorization to do so. Your software is updated in the moment and immediately so there is no confusion about version control, and monthly or yearly costs usually include all support and updates.
Choosing Right for Your Business
The best way to decide what services to use, how to implement them, and where to turn for help is to first develop a cloud strategy. Decide what you want to achieve, what deliverables you are after, and how moving to the cloud can help. Look at implementation options, create at timeline, and factor in training and support to get everyone on board.
Once you know which services you wish to use, choose a provider willing to customize the service to meet your company’s specific needs and who can streamline the integration process so your company isn’t disrupted during the process. Ask potential providers about their track record in helping businesses like yours and have them review their security system and policy so you know what is in place.
Most importantly, stay flexible. Technology is always changing and should you wish to add new functionalities to your service, your provider should be able to do that or point you in the direction of someone who can. ■