The term “cloud computing” is somewhat of a buzzword for businesses these days. But what does it mean? Is your company taking advantage of it? Should it be? Before you can answer that question, you need to understand what cloud computing for business is and how it fits into business operations.
What is cloud computing for business?
To put it succinctly, Amazon offers the following definition of the term:
“Cloud computing is the on-demand delivery of compute power, database storage, applications and other IT resources through a cloud services platform via the internet with pay-as-you-go pricing.”
In simpler terms, cloud computing is quick, online access to programs and files from anywhere with an internet connection. Through the use of a cloud platform, businesses can inexpensively store important information, applications and data online on a secure server.
Most people these days use the cloud regularly, but might not even realize it. Google Drive, Dropbox, Spotify and Netflix are all popular examples of cloud-based services. They allow you to store things like photos, music, videos and documents online instead of on a hard drive or local server, which means you can access them from anywhere and share them with anyone as long as there’s an internet connection.
While many of these services are often used by individuals, cloud platforms can be especially beneficial for small- to mid-sized companies.
Should you do business in the cloud?
The use of cloud computing for business has been on the rise for the last 10 years or so, as it can be a useful tool to support certain operations and systems. According to an Intuit report from 2014, approximately 80 percent of small companies in the United States will have integrated cloud computing technology into their business by 2020.
Aside from the ability to access and share important information from anywhere (whether with business partners, employees or clients), there are several other reasons why cloud computing for business can be advantageous:
Greater efficiency: Business resources are available to whoever needs them, whenever they need them. Accessibility to information through the cloud is direct and IT infrastructure is agile and consistent.
Innovation: As new technology emerges, the cloud instantly updates. Advanced systems and features can be used by every stakeholder and are improving at a fast rate.
Lower cost: Moving your shared server online allows you to reduce software costs, facilities bills and the number of IT employees. You can also purchase cloud services as you need them, so you won’t be paying for anything you aren’t using.
Flexibility: The cloud allows businesses to scale up if and when necessary. When things slow down, your cloud capacity can also be pulled back to save money.
Reliability: Because information stored on the cloud is accessible by the internet, it’s always there and ready for use. Although zero downtime can’t be guaranteed, most of the big cloud computing platforms have less downtime than standard servers.
Communication: With all important business information stored in a central location, everyone sees and can contribute to the same files. This improves real-time collaboration and keeps everyone up-to-date on the status of a project.
Although there are so many benefits to using cloud computing for business, some employers are hesitant to switch their systems because of a fear of limited security. It might not be possible to ensure 100-percent privacy online, but cloud platforms use advanced technologies that protect your information at an extremely high level.
How is information in the cloud secured?
No matter how you store your files, there will likely always be some risk of a security threat. Fortunately, most managed cloud services take serious security measures to protect your business. Firewalls, intrusion detection, encryption, data backups and antivirus programs all act to prevent hacking and destruction of information. Most of the major cloud providers have multiple data centers, which means your data isn’t lost if one server room goes down, gets corrupted or is destroyed by a natural disaster or fire.
For example, if you work in healthcare and deal with private patient information regularly, make sure you pick a cloud provider that understands HIPAA. Additionally, choosing complicated passwords with a mix of letters, numbers and symbols can be one of the best lines of defense to a security breach. It’s also a good idea to implement two-factor authentication for anyone trying to access your cloud.
Useful cloud-based platforms for business
Once you decide to move to the cloud, do some research into which platforms will be the most valuable for your business. Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Apple iCloud and Google Cloud Platform are some of the bigger names and provide a large range of capabilities and features, for both business and personal use.
Check out Microsoft Office 365 for powerful collaborative tools
If you are looking for a service that applies specifically to business functions, Microsoft Office 365 is a popular tool. It allows you to use online versions of Office programs instead of having to install hardware to your computer. Because it is based in the cloud, it automatically updates when new versions are available, ensuring you always have the best functionality and features. Microsoft Office 365 from GoDaddy also includes:
- Online storage to keep your important business documents and files in one place.
- Round-the-clock customer support.
- Top-notch security and spam-blocking capabilities.
- Compatibility with Windows and Mac.
- 99.9-percent guaranteed reliability.
- Collaborative documents that can be accessed by multiple users.
- Up to five installations per user account.
- Accessibility from any device.
Whether you use Office 365 or another cloud service, make sure you understand all of the benefits and features that come with it. If used to its full advantage, cloud computing for business can save your company money and increase overall efficiency and productivity with minimal security risk.