Cloud computing is now on everybody's radar. No longer do discussions of the cloud imply a great level of sophisticated IT know-how or a niche interest in technology. Cloud services have made their presence felt in virtually every corner of business operations, and as they continue to become more popular, they've also grown much more democratic. Even employees with little to no background in or exposure to IT have found themselves using the cloud in ways that have direct, measurable impacts on the way they carry out their jobs.
If you're a small or mid-sized business owner still considering whether or not the cloud is right for your firm, you're probably well acquainted with some of the advantages that companies have already enjoyed from adopting the technology - the word "agility" has most likely come up. But in case you haven't yet come across a sufficiently compelling reason to make the switch to cloud hosting, here are a few factors you may want to consider.
Better software, better business
Agility is a concept that's often talked about in relation to the cloud, and it carries with it a slight tone of specialized business lingo. However, the benefits that underlie the term are real and go beyond whatever corporate-speak connotations it may have. Agility is essentially a combination of flexibility and speed. It's the quality that companies possess when they are able to respond to market changes - changing consumer demands, new competitors - almost instantaneously, in addition to growing their own businesses as the need or opportunity to do so presents itself. The concept of business intelligence is also behind agility: In order to quickly make targeted decisions and create new strategies, firms need access to real-time insights based on critical data.
Cloud-based software is largely what's made agility more possible than ever before. Software-as-a-Service applications that are hosted off-site and delivered over an Internet connection allow companies to utilize tools that require high levels of network capacity and computing power that they may not be able to access without a cloud infrastructure in place. This means that companies can now wield relatively large arsenals of powerful software programs for a much lower cost than in the past.
But as with other types of cloud providers, not all SaaS vendors are created equal. In a column for InformationWeek, IT expert Andrew Froehlich noted that it's key to bear cloud security concerns in mind when making this decision.
"When looking for a SaaS provider, make sure you choose one that offers flexible contracts that allow for specialized treatment of application-level security to keep data safe. It may cost more, but it could be well worth it in the long run," Froehlich wrote.
More productive employees
Software applications aren't the only things that become more effective with cloud adoption. The cloud also allows employees to do their jobs in new, more productive ways that present direct benefits to the business. Part of this phenomenon is due to the way in which cloud tools can enable mobile work policies. Tech journalist Matt Rawlings pointed out in a post for Tech Cocktail that the kind of flexibility that cloud services bring to business can be a key asset.
"The fact that individual professionals can access corporate networks and a host of powerful applications from any device means workforces are in effect being steadily empowered by cloud computing. The benefits of this increased flexibility are being realized across a huge range of industries, with employees able to work from anywhere and on any device as if they were sat at their own desktop," wrote Rawlings.
With these advantages in mind, it's easy to see how the cloud has generated as much hype as it has in recent months.