The use of cloud computing has become a big feature of growing a business in recent months, but many are still unsure of the concept, and the benefit that cloud services can offer.
Here we’ve put together a quick guide to the ways in which cloud computing can help companies to grow and flourish.
What is cloud computing?
In its simplest form, cloud computing is carrying out computer-based tasks on the internet rather than just on a machine. For example, users might run an application directly from a website rather than installing it on a laptop or office PC. It is also possible to store documents on a remote server – ‘in the cloud’ – allowing access to those documents even on somebody else’s computer.
Cloud computing has a number of benefits and has been shown to significantly improve the performance of even small businesses. A recent study showed that companies using cloud-based services were able to recover from disaster or systems failure within around 2.1 hours – that’s four times faster than those without cloud storage. This is because everything is stored remotely, and not connected to in-house IT structure – so if computers go down, services stay up. These are the major benefits of cloud computing:
Whether it’s a case of simply storing data or running a fully integrated online service, a cloud-based infrastructure allows access to it from wherever you are, 24 hours a day. It also means that users can increase bandwidths and storage requirements as and when needed, without having to splash out on extra hardware. Most companies operate a pay-as-you-go system, so it is possible to request more bandwidth quickly and easily.
As cloud computing is, by definition, based on a remote server, customers will have no responsibility for maintaining hardware – a cloud service provider will update and upgrade as necessary, ensuring that professionals are looking after equipment, without the need for a company’s own man hours managing IT systems instead of focusing on the growth of the business.
One of the biggest benefits to operating a cloud-based system is the shared access to the information and data contained in documents. Rather than amending and sending files backwards and forwards, they can be edited there and then, and changes can be seen automatically from all other members of a team, straight from their own workstations. This shared access encourages collaboration, and promotes transparency of information, giving a company the room to develop without boundaries or inconvenient obstacles.
A recent study by the Gartner Group suggested that 40 per cent of businesses that lose data in a disaster will go out of business within the following five years. When a company suffers any kind of major problem, it needs to know it can replicate its data and any accessible IT systems in order to get services back up to normal operating level. Cloud computing allows them to handle this extremely effectively by hosting storage and systems off-site – meaning that in the case of a disaster, data is not only secured by guarantee, but miles away from the disaster site. This is a major feature and the deciding factor for many businesses – last year a study showed that mid-sized companies with cloud services were able to recover in almost half the time of their larger competitors, providing an upper hand when it came to getting services back up and running.
What to look for
The right kind of service depends entirely on how an individual wants to run the business – there are plenty of applications online that focus on one cloud-based service, such as file storage or video calling. However, for a fully-integrated system, businesses better off speaking to a company which offers a wide variety of services, as this is a great way to have a tailor-made package and plenty of training. Practical concerns should be taken into consideration, too; for example, a provider with separate data centres such as UK-based InTechnology will be a low-risk option, as any disaster is unlikely to hit all data banks at the same time, meaning that they can maintain a high level of service even in the case of a major system failure. Potential users should also look up some customer reviews to ensure that other business owners believe they provide a good service, and to find out if they service any businesses similar, as this will give a good indication of whether or not they will be a good fit for.