What Can Cloud Computing Do For Your Business?

If you haven’t heard of the term ‘cloud computing’ yet (where have you been?), think of the cloud as simply a metaphor for the internet. It’s a catch-all term for storing data or completing tasks through off-site servers.

Even if cloud computing is new to you (and you’re not alone), you’re already likely to be using at least one cloud based application, probably an email or social network service.

People are using the cloud for an ever increasing number of tasks now: email, file sharing and collaboration, social networking, office productivity, accounting and bookkeeping, video calls and conferencing, project management, e-commerce, online learning – you name it, the cloud provides it. In fact, it’s now possible to run a company that’s completely reliant on cloud based services.

In a recent survey assessing the use of cloud services, 1,200 IT professionals were asked about the status of cloud computing in their organization. Only 22% said they were currently ‘implementing’ cloud computing services and only 6% ‘maintaining’ services already in place. 31% described their company’s status as ‘discovering’ and 33% as ‘planning’.

The Benefits to Cloud Computing: What’s the Silver Lining?

So with nearly two-thirds of companies in the very early stages of cloud adoption, we thought it would be good to explore the benefits (and downsides) of moving your computing requirements up into the metaphorical cloud.

Ease of Access and Use

  • You can access your business data at any time and on any device. That gives you and your team flexible collaboration, improving productivity and convenience
  • Cloud based applications often come from innovative companies who are creating tools that are simple and effective to use. Services are frequently easy to set up and you don’t need to rely on internal IT support as much for assistance
  • You simply need a computer (or mobile), a browser and an internet connection.

Reduce computing costs

  • Although only 36% of the 1200 IT professionals surveyed said that cloud applications cost less than traditional ones, overall their was an annual cost saving averaging 21% (lower electricity bills, no requirement to maintain and upgrade hardware).
  • A huge advantage of the cloud is that it lowers the barrier to entry for all kinds of markets, encouraging entrepreneurs and innovation in general. You can now pay-as-you-go for the kind of services that before would have been prohibitively expensive when first starting out. The cloud acts as an accelerator for small businesses.

Flexibility and Scaleability

  • When managing your own IT services you have to ensure systems can cope with spikes in activity. But that means carrying the cost of these spikes all year round. With cloud applications you can purchase the resources you need to cope with peaks in computing activity, and then simply cut back when you need to. You’re no longer paying to maintain a flexible infrastructure. It also means you can scale up the number of employees in your business without having to invest in costly new licenses.
  • You can grow easily and dynamically with cloud based services. You don’t need to invest significant capital in hardware at a time when positive cash flow is so important.

Dark Clouds Approaching: The Risks of Cloud Computing

All these benefits sound great, but as a web monitoring company, we are of course going to consider the risks to the availability of your services and your data.

Availability - If your cloud service provider suffers a period of downtime, you lose the use of those services. If this is just one part of your business needs (say you use the cloud for an accounting application), then it’s inconvenient but not devastating. But if your whole business relies on the uptime of another service then you could be in big trouble.

Data Loss - Data storage is out of your hands with the cloud, and while this has benefits for you, it also means that if something goes wrong, you could lose vital historical data (you can back up the data you’re producing in the cloud, but not always easily).

Security - Security is one of the major reasons why companies are hesitant to move computing services into the cloud. But what many do not realize is that there are public and private clouds. Private clouds (provided by companies like Microsoft and Verizon) offer much tighter security than public clouds (provided by companies like Amazon and Google), but of course cost more. Many companies use a hybrid solution, taking advantage of the cost-effectiveness of the public cloud and the security options of the private cloud.

So the benefits of cloud computing are far reaching and, with a hybrid public-private approach to security, they surely outweigh the risks. If you’re not convinced about the future of the cloud, just consider the number of companies in the survey mentioned earlier that are ‘not considering’ cloud based services – just 8%. That should tell you a lot.