This blog has been written in the Cloud, edited in the Cloud, shared in the Cloud and critiqued in the Cloud. Indeed, a huge amount of my and colleagues’ work is done online, and so I’d like to pass on some thoughts on how this new phenomenon can help your organisation.
So for starters what is it? Cloud computing is in essence the ability to run programs and view files that are installed on a remote machine. There have been cloud-style systems in place for a long time - take browser-based email like hotmail and gmail for instance. Nowadays more and more ambitious systems are being created and it seems like everyone is getting involved.
To my mind there are three main areas where cloud computing has significant advantages over more traditional desktop systems.
At the start, when revenue is low and your company is growing, minimising costs can give you an advantage.
Cloud computing is very, very cheap. A standard desktop licence of Microsoft Office is roughly £239.99. So ignoring upgrade fees and installation hassle, that’s £240 per user for basic work capabilities.
Now take that user and give them full access to Microsoft’s online offering (Microsoft 365). That’s £4 a month and Google Apps is even cheaper at £3.30!
Cloud systems are still in their infancy and constantly being added. Some functionality that you are accustomed to may not yet be available, so do your research on what you need.
You’ll undoubtedly be aware of the recent spate of large corporations being hacked (e.g. Sony, Fox News and Sega), often through simple flaws in their (expensive) IT networks. By passing the handling of data on to a third party you gain two key advantages:
Firstly, whoever stores your data has security at the forefront of their minds and (should be) constantly keeping up-to-date with the ever changing battleground of patches, hacks and updates. Your cloud supplier will have a budget for heavy duty protection that is simply out of reach for small businesses.
Secondly you also pass a degree of liability onto whoever holds your data. If they get hacked, they’ve failed to provide the service you’ve paid them for and you can claim.
You must be careful over who is holding your data. The EU has very strict rules about data protection and any company outside the EU must be listed on the “Safe Harbour” list to be allowed to hold onto information.
Any data or programs that are stored in the Cloud are available anywhere where there is an internet connection, which is very beneficial for people on the move.
Start-ups are often spread thin, with numerous responsibilities for any staff members, tight schedules and out-of-office engagements. The Cloud means that leaving files on the wrong machine before a key meeting is impossible, and any employees needing to work at home or make crucial changes to documents whilst on the go will have that ability.
As with any website, password safety is really important in the Cloud where your user name and password are the weakest link between a potential attacker and your data.
Ultimately, the Cloud offers some great opportunities for new businesses.
The low start-up costs of services and the limited hardware needed means it’s all very accessible. It’s easy to use, cheap to try, and is at least worth testing with a free trial.
Do you know of any Cloud success stories, or still have concerns for your company? I’m happy to share my experiences and ideas.