Cloud computing may not be the most talked-about aspect of running a business, but it‘s one of the most widely used. More than 92% of companies use services that are connected to or run in the cloud, which means the trend toward cloud-based computing is here to stay.
If you’re not using one of these services yet, you may be wondering about the benefits of moving your computing tasks online. Here are the most-cited perks of cloud computing, with advantages for small to large companies, nonprofits, and other businesses.
What is cloud computing?
Cloud computing is an offsite computer resource or group of resources that are easily accessed, via the internet, in an on-demand capacity. Instead of using your own computer and servers to store your company's email files or nightly data backups, cloud services offer a way to offload these functions to dedicated servers at a cloud computing company’s data centers.
These offsite servers are physical servers, and they perform the same functions as your own computers or servers. They’re just owned, managed, and maintained by another company at another location. They allow you to perform the same tasks as an in-house server, including storing and serving data, hosting apps, email and web hosting, and security services.
Cloud infrastructure options
Cloud infrastructure options typically fall into one of three categories:
Platform as a service (PaaS): A complete cloud computing model offering hardware, software, and infrastructure services. Examples include Microsoft Azure and Google App Engine
Infrastructure as a service (IaaS): A set of computing, storing, and networking resources. Examples include Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and Amazon Web Services.
Software as a service (SaaS): You access this software online, rather than as a download, and use it on your local machine. Examples include Trello and Adobe Creative Cloud.
12 business benefits of cloud computing
If you use any of the available cloud services for small businesses – and chances are good that you do – then you’ve already realized some of the perks. Here are 12 benefits of cloud services that are often less discernible but absolutely essential.
1. Data security
Data loss is a major concern for businesses today. From accidental deletions to malicious attempts by outsiders to steal information or hold data for ransom, there is no shortage of threats to the modern company. With so much dependence on data and its safekeeping, it makes sense for small businesses to outsource their data and processes to a more secure location than an in-house server.
While it may seem that storing data elsewhere, where it’s accessed remotely, may be a larger risk, cloud providers are well-versed in security details like authentication, encryption, and permissions. You can choose who accesses what data, and the provider can work with you to manage and safeguard your data.
2. Potential cost reduction
If you value outright ownership of your assets, you may see the monthly cost as one of the disadvantages of cloud computing. But do you know what it costs to buy, store, and maintain your own servers? What about the rooms that house them and the teams needed to keep them operational day in and day out?
Every hardware component, from cabling to a ventilation unit, has a price tag. So do the software, upgrades, and licenses. With cloud business solutions already covering the high cost of storing and hosting data, it may make more fiscal sense to outsource this and save on what is otherwise a significant and ongoing investment.
Without the need to keep additional IT staff on the payroll to maintain your servers, you’ll have less to manage from an HR perspective. Training and development demands decrease, as well. In addition to having a more streamlined approach to data, you’ll have fewer personnel issues related to server upkeep.
What if you need to expand your operations to accommodate a new client next week? Tomorrow? Most commercial cloud service providers are ready and able to scale up your data and resource needs. Today, if necessary.
They know the cost and resources you need, and they can help you determine the right plan to keep everything moving through your growth period. Plus, if you need to scale down or your growth is seasonal or temporary, you can easily downgrade, as well.
Even as some remote teams make their way back to the office following the COVID-19 pandemic, the appeal of remote work won’t go away. The ability to access the right data anywhere and everywhere is the sign of an agile business. Cloud-based apps can keep your offices connected to the communications systems you use between employees, clients, customer service, and suppliers,
Many companies are making and developing mobile solutions to not only serve their teams but to sell to their customers, too. The cloud-based server for small business has made it easier to build, test, and deploy apps and mobile solutions that keep your brand at top of mind.
6. Disaster recovery
What happens when you lose power, data, or confidential customer information? Most cloud providers have instituted multiple redundancies to make sure there’s a copy of what you need, so you can access it quickly in an emergency. Even if you choose to keep your own backups, cloud computing services provide additional assurances and may help you remain compliant in your industry.
7. Competitive advantage
While more than 90% of companies use at least one aspect of cloud computing, many haven’t made the switch to using it for more and more of their proprietary needs. Those early adopters may have an advantage in accessing newer tech and an improved workflow.
If nothing else, you can use that saved money and time to put toward other priorities, such as research and development, marketing, or staffing. This may be all you need to overtake your biggest competitor in a crowded market.
8. Quality control
Your first instinct may be to think of the cons of cloud computing services and how they may offer limited control. In reality, they can equip you with the ability to keep an eye on your data and who uses it. Cloud providers let you filter permissions on an individual level, and they offer reporting tools to ensure confidentiality.
Reporting isn’t just useful for seeing what your teams are doing. It can help you track everything from sales trends to resource waste. You can store, analyze, and mine all of the data sent back and forth from your cloud provider to your machines. This data mining approach isn’t new, but some of the AI tools used to make the data more useful are – and it's becoming more innovative all the time.
10. Increased collaboration
The cloud was created with collaboration in mind since some of the very first tools were made for remote teams to share data. As more tasks move to the cloud, your employees have new and better ways to collaborate, whether they’re sitting in the same office or chatting across the globe. This allows for real-time connections from anywhere and at any time.
11. Automatic software updates
How many times have you delayed updating your Microsoft or Linux operating systems? These updates may seem like an inconvenience, but they’re necessary for efficiency and security.
Cloud-based services automatically update and maintain their tools for your use, often with little or no interruption to your daily workflow. Updates take place across the entire system at once, so a single instance won’t compromise your infrastructure.
Whether you have a mission statement to do more for the planet or you’re looking for ways to reduce your energy bill, cloud computing can support your ethos without making grand changes at the company level. By empowering remote teams, you can reduce transportation-related waste and the amount of physical products you use daily.
Cloud computing is the future of business, and you can enjoy its benefits even if you use onsite solutions, thanks to the prevalence of hybrid cloud solutions. By moving what you can to the cloud and keeping only what you must onsite, you get the best of both worlds and keep up with your peers.
Whichever option you choose – full or hybrid cloud – it's worth investigating how these benefits can contribute to an exceptional ROI for your business. Cloud computing is poised to do more for your company with less expense, especially compared to building and hosting everything on your own servers.
About the Author: Linsey Knerl is a contributing writer for HP Tech@Work. Linsey is a Midwest-based author, public speaker, and member of the ASJA. She has a passion for helping consumers and small business owners do more with their resources via the latest tech solutions.
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