Not so long ago cloud computing was seen as somewhat of a novelty, something that would only be of interest to enterprise companies and generally wouldn’t be adopted. It also had many sceptics, with security concerns and data loss high on the agendas of those that doubted its future. However, advances in technology and verified success stories have proven these doubters wrong and cloud computing has risen to the top of the list for many companies – small to large – looking to benefit from the flexibility, associated cost savings and opportunities that the cloud offers. In a recent Google blog, Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman, Google, even declared that “moving to the cloud is not a questionable proposition — it’s inevitable.”
So why is cloud computing becoming so popular and relevant? Are you thinking you could benefit from moving to the cloud? Here are ten benefits that argue the case for adopting a cloud strategy.
1. Reduce Capital Costs
The use of cloud computing changes the cost model for a business, removing much of the unpredictable CAPEX expenditure and replacing it with a predictable quarterly cost that covers all support, rental and licenses. With a third party service provider supplying all the hardware and taking on all the responsibility, the business no longer has to buy, maintain, support or insure expensive servers, storage, back up devices or a data centre – the costs of which, even for a small data centre, are huge and require specialist skills. Furthermore, because desktops or laptops now no longer run programs (they run in the cloud) their lifecycles can be extended from the current 3-5 years, to 5-7 years. In addition, when a desktop device needs replacing, or if new ones are needed for new staff, then an inexpensive thin client (£170) device can be used instead of a PC.
2. Improve Business Agility
With a cloud infrastructure in place it is very easy to scale up the business on demand as additional users can be added quickly, without having to buy or provision new hardware. A per user, per month cost makes it easier to see what the actual costs are, helping with financial planning and the growth development of the business. This leads to improved economies of scale for any business. Companies can adapt much quicker to changes in business and adopt and exploit new technologies to improve any aspect of the business or respond to new demands. Flexible working and the ability to ‘hot desk’ derived from the cloud’s availability also enables a business to grow without expensive investments in new real estate.
3. Centralise Software
Businesses no longer have to buy or upgrade expensive software packages. Cloud platform software, or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), is version-less, meaning that companies are always entitled to the latest version of Microsoft applications such as Exchange. Upgrading of software is also performed from one single point, meaning that any upgrades don’t have to be performed locally on each and every machine – freeing up IT managers to concentrate on other important aspects of running IT. It also means that everyone in the organisation is using the same software and versions.
4. Space and Power
IT equipment often takes up valuable office or storage space. It also consumes a lot of power – both to run and to keep cool. The average server, running 24 hours a day, uses £500 per annum of power and requires almost the same again if air conditioning is needed to cool it.
5. Remove Business Risk
In a cloud environment all employees use one central, secure and resilient system. The company data is also retained centrally and regularly backed up. The data and IT infrastructure is then stored and hosted in an environment that is managed and monitored 24/7, with advanced, multi-layered security procedures protecting it. Trying to replicate this set up in house would probably be out of reach of many small businesses, both financially and technically. Without this level of protection a business can be exposed to risk as well as a loss of business if customers or potential customers cannot get hold of them during a system outage. There have been many instances where a power surge has destroyed an in-house server, which has led to a great deal of valuable information being lost, as well as the resultant downtime affecting productivity. With the data secure and the fact that minimal IT equipment is kept on site, it not only removes the concern of security and data loss, it should also reduce insurance premiums.
6. Increase Productivity & Collaboration
A cloud environment can make employees, especially IT staff, far more productive as they no longer have to worry about hardware failures, system backups, and system upgrades etc. With a centralised platform, team members can also sync up and work on documents and shared apps simultaneously, as well as receive critical updates and changes in real time. Without a cloud set up, they will have to send files back and forth via email, resulting in delays and possible confusion about the version of the file or document as well as creating a long stream of communication. If employees are also working in different time zones, this can definitely have an adverse effect on the workflow.
7. Expand Accessibility & Mobility
The ability to access the systems and files from anywhere at any time will improve efficiency and prevent business downtime due to adverse weather or disasters. Uptime and consistent user experience are really key to adoption of the cloud, and will have an extremely positive effect on the entire business. The cloud also paves the way for the adoption of BYOD (Bring your own device) policies which is rapidly growing momentum, and looks likely to become the typical environment for the vast majority of businesses. By shifting device ownership to employees, IT also eases its burden for endpoint procurement.
8. Improve Security
As mentioned previously, doubts were raised over the security of cloud computing in the early dayswhich prevented many organisations, which were not willing to take the risk, from adopting it. However, as cloud computing has evolved, the technology improved and people having a better understanding of how it works, it is now seen as actually being more secure and stable. As the lifeblood of their business, as well as having to adhere to strict ISO security standards, cloud service providers invest heavily in security and providing a resilient, secure data centre infrastructure.
9. Increase Competitiveness
The enterprise-class products and services that cloud providers can offer, at a fraction of the cost for installing and hosting locally, can allow smaller businesses to react much quicker to changing environments and demands, and therefore can complete on a level playing field with some of their larger competitors, making the business much more competitive. Cloud computing enables essentially frees up companies to focus on what’s important – its business.
10. Lower Staff Costs
Good IT staff are becoming a scarce commodity. This results in a general supply and demand conundrum, which subsequently means that their salary and benefit demands are often quite high. For a small business, this will often outweigh the cost of the infrastructure and ROI, and will simply not be viable. In larger businesses, cloud adoption does not mean that IT managers will be made redundant. In fact any forward thinking business will keep that talent and apply the new, available resources to exploit new opportunities that can provide a significant ROI. FDs or CFOs may have a job of convincing IT managers and teams that this is the case, but it is worth doing so.