Titans of technology like Google, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft are all focusing their resources on providing cloud-based solutions for their customers. Google Apps, Amazon EC2 servers, Apple’s iCloud, and Microsoft Office 365 are all products aimed to change the way businesses use technology.
It makes a lot of sense, because businesses and consumers alike are looking for more affordable solutions to solve technology-related problems. These aren’t the best of times economically, and not every business can afford a large IT staff and enterprise software or servers. Small businesses trying to compete with established players in their field need reasonably priced solutions that can help them level the playing field.
Enter the cloud.
When one imagines a cloud, words like light, soft, calm, and peaceful all come to mind. It evokes warm and relaxing feelings which usually don’t go hand-in-hand with business IT solutions. Realistically, the thought of cloud services isn’t going to send someone running for a blankie and milk and cookies, but the cost savings can certainly get you a bigger cookie jar.
Cloud solutions migrate all of the hardware and maintenance out of your office and hosts it via the vendor’s data centers. Some cloud offerings are free; some cost a monthly fee which enables easier scaling as a company shrinks or expands. Additionally, hosting something in the cloud usually means no more costly upgrades. Updates to software or firmware are there for the same monthly price as the previous version.
Cloud technologies also allow employees to work from anywhere with an Internet connection. This is great for maintaining an office presence while traveling or for letting employees work from home. Cloud solutions can also keep businesses running and data safe from local disasters by utilizing multiple data centers and higher levels of redundancy than small businesses could otherwise afford.
The cloud doesn’t just hover over servers, software, and computing. Hosted VoIP phone systems offer traditional on-premise PBX system features at a fraction of the price. Companies no longer need a closet full of hardware to get a dial tone, or even a telephone line for that matter. Hosted VoIP, like other cloud-based solutions, only requires an Internet connection and a properly configured router. It also provides features that traditional PBX phone systems lack, like recording calls, real-time call statistics and reports, voicemail-to-text transcription and more.
One of the biggest advantages of the cloud is the ability to access data from anywhere. The combination of cloud services combine to give you the ultimate freedom and flexibility to work anywhere.
Imagine this nightmare scenario:
You’re out of the country on business and accidentally spill a delicious exotic drink all over your laptop. All of the files you needed to edit before the big presentation are corrupt; your cell phone doesn’t work out of the country, and you don’t have time to figure out how to use a calling card. Thanks to the cloud, you go to an Internet café, retrieve your files from the cloud, edit them with web apps, plug in your VoIP phone, and make a free call home to make sure your staff has a new computer ready and waiting for you the day you get home. Disaster averted. Without the cloud…well, at least there are delicious exotic drinks.
Now is the time for businesses to investigate for themselves just how much money can be saved on IT costs and reinvested elsewhere thanks to cloud solutions.
Have you already started using the cloud for business? What has your experience been?