You’ve probably heard the buzz about cloud computing in business and use some type of cloud service such as email marketing or accounting platforms. But what does it mean to go all-in to make your company cloud-based, and will it offer any cost savings or end up costing more than a traditional approach to IT?
Large enterprises have been quick to adopt the cloud, and small and midsize businesses (SMBs) are increasingly recognizing the value of implementing cloud computing. In our estimation, it is now the norm, and companies of all sizes will need to get on board or risk falling behind the competition.
What is Cloud Computing for Business?
Before we get into the main considerations of moving to the cloud, let’s first define what it means. In the context of business, it’s more than just using a cloud-based email service or downloading an app to your laptop.
There was a time when most businesses stored all their company data on large onsite servers that often had their own dedicated “server rooms.” Many remember the days of tape backups and the fear of a system going down. Unfortunately, many also remember the days when those tape backups routinely failed and companies scrambled to retrace their steps in an effort to recapture as much data as they could.
In today’s technology landscape, cloud computing most often refers to storing all that critical business data on large off-site servers (professional cloud services) and accessing it via the internet. Those massive servers are hosted and managed by companies that specialize in keeping data secure and accessible.
Private Cloud vs. Public Cloud
You may have heard about a couple different types of cloud computing. For example, what’s the difference between public and private cloud?
With a private cloud, your data is hosted on a server dedicated to your company only and is sometimes maintained by an in-house IT staff. It can be kept onsite or off-premise, and it’s typically appropriate for larger companies with highly sensitive data and governance requirements.
A public cloud solution is maintained by an outside service such as Amazon Web Service or Azure, and it stores information for multiple customers off-site on shared servers. As we see more and more ads for these types of cloud services, it can be difficult to understand which is best for your business. Here’s what you need to consider when making your decision.
Cost savings and Budget Control
Moving to the public cloud can offer cost savings in the long run because you don’t have to maintain in-house servers or the staff to service them. Private cloud, on the other hand, is usually more costly up front and is owned by local providers that have a flat, locked-in fee. For SMBs, the public cloud is typically more affordable and can easily meet their needs. Microsoft and Azure, for example, are based on usage, so work with a provider that can help you determine your cost up front.
Your cloud performance can be affected depending on what industry you’re in and how resource-heavy your software is. The great thing about a cloud solution is that you can quickly increase your storage requirements as your business grows, or decrease it if the need arises. Once you choose a plan and sign up for a cloud service, you can typically start using it within minutes. Once you have an account, you can just as easily and quickly add more storage at the click of a button. Naturally, your monthly bill will reflect these kinds of changes to your plan.
Leveraging the Latest Technology
With the cloud, you also have nearly unlimited choices when it comes to the tools and digital resources your company can use. Whether you want the best marketing software, project planning tools, customer relationship management program, or accounting products, you’ll find them available through online platforms, and they’ll be responsible for storing (or retrieving) the data you enter. Another advantage is that software updates are typically performed automatically so you don’t have to worry about missing important fixes or improvements.
About 40% of the U.S. workforce works remotely at some frequency, and that number continues to climb. If your company wants to offer employees the flexibility of working offsite and having all the access they need to company data on the go, cloud computing is a must. For many workers, flexibility is ranked among the most valuable benefits that an employer can offer, and it’s becoming increasingly important for companies that want to attract top talent and keep them.
When an in-house server goes down, there is no way to know how long it may take to get it back up and running. Downtime is public enemy #1 for many smaller businesses and can quickly eat away at profits and lead to dissatisfied customers and a tarnished reputation.
When choosing a cloud solution, work with a Managed IT provider that will take time up front to test the cloud in your environment to make sure it will meet your needs and that you’ll get what you pay for with a monthly agreement.
As mentioned earlier, in-house servers have a greater risk of data loss if there’s a malfunction. Reputable cloud services continually backup their data and have multiple stop gap measures in place to protect it. If there’s a power failure or your computer system goes down, the data you’ve entered isn’t in danger of being lost and can typically be restored within minutes.
The benefits of having data and business tools at your fingertips at any time and any place can offer your company a distinct advantage over your competition, especially if they have yet to implement such a solution. The ability to capture data and receive notifications in real-time allows you to respond to needs faster. Customers receive service more quickly, employees experience less frustration, workflows and business processes become more streamlined, and your company becomes more efficient overall. Because many online tools “talk” with each other, you also can leverage cloud technology to gain a big picture view and make better business decisions based on hard data instead of best guesses.
Cloud computing is here to stay, and it’s not unreasonable to think that on-site servers will soon go the way of Blockbuster and the Sony Walkman. Get ahead of the curve and ahead of your competitors by implementing the cloud now. Talk with the IT experts at Technology Pointe who will help you determine the best cloud solution for your unique needs.