Keeping it in the cloud
The cloud is so much more than a trend – it’s a new way of doing business. Market research firm In-Stat predicts that businesses in the United States alone will spend more than $13 billion on cloud computing and managed hosting services by the end of 2014. With good reason – it was reported earlier this year that 80 percent of cloud converts saw improvements within six months of adopting cloud technology.
In case you’re not too sure what cloud computing is, here’s a quick explanation: The cloud is a remote location where businesses and individuals can store their data. Rather than getting to it via your hard drive, you access it online, via any device with an internet connection. Think about your Gmail account, Twitter or internet banking – every time you log in, you’re using the cloud.
Cloud computing benefits are numerous and compelling. In case you’re a little late to the party, never fear! Here’s a list of some of some of the most convincing arguments.
Use the cloud for remote working
Because the cloud can be accessed from anywhere, at any time, via any device with an internet connection, it lets businesses and staff members create a virtual office. This means owners and employees alike can connect to the business from their smartphone, tablet, laptop or home computer. People can juggle their various responsibilities far better – perhaps starting and finishing work a little later to work around childcare, or cutting a long commute to twice-weekly.
Opening your business up to remote working also gives you access to a worldwide workforce. Time zones and geography are no longer an issue – businesses can hire the very best talent across the country, and they will be able to collaborate on the same document and holding meetings over Skype or Google Hangouts.
Small-scale remote working is also made easier through cloud computing. When you’re off site for a business meeting, in transit, or out in the field, you can quickly access and share information, check your finances and even send invoices.
Most cloud software allows multiple or unlimited users at no extra charge. This means you can invite as many staff, contractors, advisors and third parties as necessary to your CRM, payroll, point of sale, office suite and accounting software.
This way, all stakeholders have access to shared apps and documents in real-time. Multiple users can work on the same document simultaneously, confident they have the most up-to-date data. Gone are the days of emailing files back and forth and making a bunch of edits only to find you weren’t working on the latest version.
It makes sense – internally, staff can communicate openly, work virtually and share vital information with ease. From an external point of view, financial advisors can quickly and easily consult with you on cashflow management, budgets, financial forecasts, risk assessment, growth and business plans and more.
Working in the cloud means staying connected. And when you have a whole bunch of apps that speak to one another, you have access to a whole bunch of data that can be used to enhance your marketing efforts.
‘Data-driven marketing’, or simply ‘data marketing’, are terms for channeling information collated from your database of existing and potential customers into direct marketing. This data can be used to create personalized, targeted campaigns that focus on individuals or sections of your client base.
Buying behavior, invoice amounts and even location can be used to perfect data-based campaigns. It’s a truly effective technique that’s being picked up everywhere:
- Amazon customers looking to buy The Passage by Justin Cronin are told that “customers who bought this item also bought” The Twelve, Wool, The Strain and more.
- Xero users are offered Smart Lists to further their data marketing efforts by gaining insight into what their customers love.
- Members of Asos receive promotional emails based on where they are in the world featuring a sale centered on the appropriate public holiday.
With all the information you need to create enticing, personalized marketing campaigns, you’d be crazy not to use data to your advantage.
Security is one of the primary reasons some businesses are reluctant to embrace cloud computing. In reality, however, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Because of strict ISO (the International Organization for Standardization) security standards for cloud providers, security is actually tighter with cloud solutions – plus they carry out regular security audits. Besides, it’s good for business for them to invest heavily in making sure your data is safe as can be. Think about it – who spends more on data security, you or your cloud provider? It’s likely that hackers would find it easier to get into your desktop then access information securely stored in the cloud!
Disaster recovery and business continuity
Data stored locally is vulnerable. Your hardware or software can be destroyed by a natural disaster. Your laptop could be one on approximately 800,000 lost or stolen in an airport every year. Perhaps you’re on a business trip and you forgot your charger. Your office might experience a power failure, or you could be cut off from it for an unforeseen reason.
In the face of all these crisis, data stored in the cloud remains safe. Regardless of what happens to, once you’ve got hold of a device with an internet connection, you can work again – even if it is from a temporary office.
Automatic software updates
Desktop software updates are infamous for being painful, slow, and expensive. Upgrades are often forced (unless you want to lose functionality and compatibility) and have to be done by the consumer, at their own expense.
By and large, cloud service providers deploy the updates themselves, free of charge. You know you’ve always got the latest and best version of your software, and that upgrades have been made to improve user experience. Also, most SaaS companies love constructive feedback on their product. If there’s a bug that needs to be fixed or a feature that needs to be improved, you don’t need to wait until the next year for the new version.
What’s more, you can also scale up or down your version of the software if and when necessary. Most services charge a monthly fee, so all you need to do is alter your subscription and continue to pay as you go.
Reduce your bottom line
Last but not least, one cloud benefit that really stands out against old technology is how affordable it is. Cloud computing tends to mean less power consumption, IT costs are taken care of at the provider end, and less hardware.
And of course, because cloud services are so flexible, you only pay for exactly what you need. Packages are tailored to the needs of your business, so there are no big upfront costs or paying for features you don’t need.
So what are you waiting for?
Hopefully this information was enough to convince you to look into starting or expanding upon your journey to the cloud. There’s no reason to put it off any longer – start researching cloud services today – just make sure to check their reviews and take advantage or demos and free trials to make sure you get the perfect fit for your business!