Cloud Computing. It’s becoming a household term and it’s changing the way we look at computers. Why? Simply put, the power and the speed of the internet and broadband networks (drawn as a cloud in network diagrams) has allowed remote servers in large datacenters to do the heavy lifting, not your PC. The applications are served to you through a web browser instead of your hard drive. Consequently, your applications and data are accessible through any web connected device. For SMB (small and medium sized businesses), is it a fad or here to stay? We believe it’s here to stay. In fact not only do we run our own business on cloud technology, we’re staking the future of our business on it!
So why should SMB companies look to the cloud? Here’s our top 10 list:
Cost – The predominant model of delivering cloud applications is via SaaS (Software-as-a-Service). Companies pay for cloud applications on a subscription basis and consequently only pay for what they need. No large up front costs for server hardware and traditional license fees and best of all, seamless upgrades are included. Even devices for staff like desktops or laptops are no longer required to be high end units with big processors and lots of memory. Simple desktops, netbooks or a tablet will often suffice. Given the current economic conditions, cloud technology allows businesses to keep costs low.
Rapid Time-to-Benefit – Get up and running quickly. Because cloud applications are web based, intuitive and work like consumer web applications like Amazon or Google that users are already used to using, they can get up to speed quickly. For IT departments, there’s no more worrying about servers, upgrades, backups and the staff necessary to look after all of them. Instead, company resources can be used to get the most of their newly implemented cloud solution.
Reliability – Always on, always available. Given the availability of high speed internet, WiFi and 3G/4G networks, most of us will have to work hard not to have internet access anywhere we’re at. Even airlines like Westjet are adding WiFi access in the near future. For those concerned about offline access, some apps like Salesforce CRM and Google Apps come with offline capabilities. Most cloud apps provide service level agreements which promise 99.9% uptime or provide transparency to establish trust. trust.salesforce.com is a good example of this.
Security – A high percentage of SMBs in Canada do not invest adequately in properly securing their on-premise data. Cloud solutions like Salesforce CRM and Google Apps are built for companies big and small, however security has to meet the concerns of large enterprises like Dell or Starbucks. SMBs can benefit from the same security architecture built into these cloud platforms for enterprise companies. Cloud companies live and die by their reputations so it’s in their best interest to have highly reliable security measures in place.
Scalability – Cloud grows as your company does. Need 1 user today and want 100 next year, no problem. SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) levels the playing field between growing businesses and larger competitors, by equipping SMBs with application functionality that only large enterprises previously enjoyed. Cloud pioneers like Salesforce.com run on a multitenant architecture which allows them to be more elastic and serve over 100,000 customers.
Mobility – Most cloud applications have native iOS, Android and Blackberry apps and/or they have a browser based HTML5 platform independent app that works on any mobile device. This allows mobile users to stay in touch while on the road and allows users back at the office visibility in real-time. Always, anywhere by any device is the mantra of most cloud computing companies.
Innovation – With traditional on-premise systems, the focus and budget goes to into just keeping it running. Cloud apps allow for customization like never before. Looking for cloud [your category here], there’s app for that. The Salesforce.com AppExchange and Google Apps Marketplace are just two examples of app stores to browse. Don’t find what you’re looking for, popular PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) like Salesforce’s Force.com or the Google Apps Engine allow you to create apps in the cloud to suit your unique business needs.
Collaboration – Cloud technology enables collaboration like never before. For example, instead of emailing spreadsheets back and forth, Google Apps users can work on the same document at the same time and use a chat window to discuss changes in realtime. Salesforce CRM users can share a content library with co-workers instead of having important files buried on their hard drive somewhere. The idea of the virtual office is no longer a Utopian vision. Co-workers can collaborate just as if they were sitting next to each other.
Integration – Are you used to working with disjoint systems? A unified system is not just helpful and convenient, it’s become a business necessity. From major back-office to front-office integrations (CRM to accounting for example) or simpler integrations (CRM to project management for example), cloud makes it easier because most cloud apps have APIs (application programming interfaces) and can communicate without the restriction of a local network firewall and the other restrictions that on-premise systems have.
Social Networking – Your customers are social so if your company isn’t, your missing out on potential leads and the ability to provide top notch service to say the least. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn among others are essentially all cloud applications themselves, so naturally they integrate with cloud business apps easier. Leading cloud applications like Salesforce CRM can gather a social profile of companies, leads and contacts to help with the sales process. They also have an employee social network called Chatter that enables co-workers to collaborate. Now the focus is on creating customer social networks that give you insight into what people are saying about your brand on sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
Do you need help developing a cloud strategy? Contact us at 1 (877) 388-6400 to discuss how we can help your company move to the cloud.