5 Ways Cloud Computing Could Benefit Your Business

Cloud computing is not just a vision of the future – it’s already here, with more and more major technology institutions moving their operations into the cloud. Everybody understands the concept of OneDrive and phone backups, but what is cloud computing, really? And what are its benefits for businesses?

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Growing market

Cloud computing technologies are surging in the market. Analysts predict their IT and software applications market share will rise well above 50% in the next three years. If your business has a computer network (everybody), there’s a good chance some of the programs you are using will already be cloud-based.

This adoption is being led by major players such as the United States Air Force, who recently awarded a $1 billion contract to Dell EMC, Microsoft and General Dynamics, to bring its ageing computer systems up to scratch in the cloud. It is being described as the largest ever US Federal Government procurement of cloud technology and will cover almost 800,000 users in the Air Force and other government agencies.

Perhaps more relevant to your daily life is the cloud behemoth AWS underpinning Netflix, Hulu, the BBC, Spotify, Time Inc and many others.

Even local legends are getting in on the action. Dulux Paints, Australia’s largest paint manufacturer, is aiming to completely digitise its entire supply chain using the cloud. They expect to benefit from faster time-to-market, real-time supplier collaboration, better product cost management and complete supply chain visibility.

Clearly, the market has already decided in favour of cloud technology. If you’re not one of the early adopters, we can fill you in on everything you need to know about the cloud, including how it can benefit your business.

What is the cloud?

Most of us are aware that a lot of our data is not stored on our computers anymore. Instead, it is stored in the cloud – enormous, centralised computer facilities owned by major tech companies, with whom you have an account to access your data. Microsoft OneDrive is one such service.

And many of us know that the apps we use at work are often, in fact, cloud-based, as well. Platforms like Jira and other business applications are accessed through a web browser, and the data is stored at the company’s data centres, not on your computer. That’s where the computer processing is done, too, which allows you to benefit from the power of a supercomputer while relaxing on your laptop in Bali. At least, that’s the dream.

As mentioned above, more and more business IT infrastructure is being transferred to the cloud, including in growing Australian industries. Soon, we can expect to see businesses with their entire digital operation performed by cloud computing. So how could your company benefit from this transition?

Benefits of cloud computing

What are the specific advantages that can come from adopting cloud technology? Here are five of the most important:

1. It can save you money

The most obvious benefit that comes with utilising cloud services is saving on IT costs. Cloud companies specialising in running email servers or invoicing systems can save you the money spent running your own system in-house. The economies of scale here lead to savings in managing your computer systems.

It can also save you hardware and installation costs, as you won’t need to worry so much about keeping your systems up to date with the latest technology. As long as they can connect to the internet, most computers will be able to run your applications, and you won’t need to worry about installing and updating so much software.

As less hardware is needed in every office, energy costs are saved too. An added bonus is that lower energy usage means a lower carbon footprint, making cloud computing a greener choice for the digital future.

2. Harness the power

Only having to rent computing power when you need it allows companies to access systems and software that they might otherwise be unable to afford, such as AI services. It also means that companies who have irregular computing demands can save money by only paying for the services during periods when they need them.

This concept of business agility is often cited as a major benefit of cloud computing by supporters. It makes it easier and faster to move applications from the small-scale development phase into massive-scale distribution. As the cloud has virtually unlimited storage space, businesses can easily scale up their website operations without worrying about escalating costs.

3. Cloud dynamics

Working in the cloud has also been shown to boost collaboration between different working groups. It makes communication quicker and easier and allows for smoother group work on the same files.

The added facilitation of remote working also allows companies to be more flexible about hiring for their teams. This is because they are able to choose not only from local candidates, but from those anywhere in the world. This freedom is especially important in the post-pandemic workplace and can lead to better-synched teams. It also means you’ll be able to manage your business remotely, from whichever sunny coast you want.

4. Everything backed up, forever

For many businesses, the primary function of cloud computing is for backup and storage. In fact, a recent survey of IT executives found data protection to be the top use case for cloud computing, followed closely by data storage.

These measures ensure that if your system goes down for any reason, you will not need to worry about losing valuable data. You will be able to reboot to an earlier copy of all of your data, anywhere in the world, regardless of what is happening in your company headquarters.

This type of data protection is critically important in the age of ransomware cyber-attacks. Getting hacked can mean having to shut down your business for days or weeks, and some very expensive reconstruction. Having everything backed up in the cloud will negate this threat, allowing you to simply revert to a version of your system without the hack and continue with business as usual. Such cloud-based security and recovery services should become a standard insurance practice across many industries.

5. Cloud fortress

Cloud computing not only offers options for data storage, it also provides data security services to reduce your risk of disaster in the first place. Besides the physical protection that comes from not being reliant on your business headquarters to operate, the cloud can also encrypt data across networks and create secured storage within databases. You can monitor and control access, require authentication and install other security features.

This can be great for managing multiple teams at different locations, all with different security access levels in your systems. Of course, no one security system is perfect and, as an emerging technology, there are still risks when it comes to storing your data in the cloud. It’s worth considering some kind of physical backup of critical data as well. Then, when it comes to migrating your data, it’s important to think through the transition process carefully.

So how should you do it?

There’s a lot of back-end work to do in order to successfully introduce cloud computing into business operations. One recent example of this approach is Rob Howe, IT director for Guinness World Records. He advises businesses to take the transition slowly and steadily, part by part, rather than all at once.

‘Cherry-pick key elements – understand the changes you need to make to the infrastructure, and the behaviour of software, when you’re moving over. Be aware of the differences and account for them… the cloud should not be viewed as a one-size-fits-all solution to your business.’

That account can also extend to figuring out the actual possible savings there might be in making the switch. When designing your business case for moving systems to the cloud, you’ll need to figure out just how much it costs you to run your current systems. That’s your physical hardware costs, your software costs, your power costs, even the office space it takes to store. You’ll also need to calculate the transition costs – are you going to have to switch any applications? Will you need to update data or re-train employees? Might it become viable to have them work remotely with access to the cloud?

After you have decided that the subsequent potential savings are worth the investment, it’s important not to put all your eggs in one basket. Many businesses are today embracing multi-cloud or hybrid-cloud systems, which distribute or clone your systems across multiple networks, reducing your reliance on a single provider and protecting you, should the cloud go down.

Cloud computing is destined to become an integral feature of digital business. Its adoption by more and more major players only cements its place in today’s market and the markets of tomorrow. The benefits of cloud computing run the gamut from security to storage, business agility to collaboration and, of course, savings.

If you’re an IT manager or run a small business, it’s time to think about introducing cloud computing into your business operations.

If you’re thinking you’ll need someone to help you with all of this, check our interview questions to help you find an IT specialist or a systems engineer.

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