To anyone with a lack of computing knowledge, the cloud can often seem mysterious and remote. Yet as an extension of the internet, it’s an entirely logical and accessible medium. Businesses are particularly well placed to enjoy the benefits of cloud hosting’s unique combination of affordability, accessibility and automation.
Clearly, an ecommerce platform require different resources from a media outlet or a service industry website. However, certain advantages are universally shared, whichever industry or target audience a company is focused upon.
These are some of the key benefits of cloud hosting among small businesses:
Many brands begin as the brainchild of a sole trader, before gradually expanding and evolving. Managing organic growth (and the associated increase in IT requirements) is relatively difficult if every new staff member requires software programs, devices and storage space. By contrast, the cloud is agile and instantly responsive. Operational and storage requirements may be adjusted at any time, and the same is true for website bandwidth. A seasonal retailer will expect periodic traffic spikes, so pay-as-you-go provision would be more efficient than paying for extra bandwidth across the other eleven months of the year.
Gone are the days of saving documents on a C drive, then being unable to access them anywhere else. Cloud-hosted documents are available on almost any web-enabled device, making them accessible wherever employees happen to be based. That, in turn, permits home working, whose benefits extend from greater staff retention to lower overheads as a consequence of smaller office requirements. Home working also boosts productivity, since issues like bad weather and illness have less impact on individual worker efficiency. On average, employees would accept a six per cent pay cut to be able to work from home.
In the 2000s, software programs were purchased with licenses, and then used until they stopped working or the devices failed. In the cloud, updates are immediately rolled out to every user. Placing the latest software tools at the disposal of employees improves productivity, capitalising on the benefits of programming advances. There may also be periodic server upgrades and additional processing power, since the benefits of cloud hosting extend to website management and hosting. And all this takes place off-site, in the dead of night and without the need for any technical expertise.
Continuity of service
This expands on the previous point, encompassing the guaranteed availability of software applications and programs. If a computer needs repairing, a staff member could log on using another device to seamlessly continue their work. If there’s a power surge or broadband outage, employees and their iPads can decamp to a nearby Costa without having to dismantle desktop computers or relocate peripherals. There’s no need to worry about disaster recovery protocols since cloud-hosted data is automatically backed up at no extra charge. The cloud firms handle security, repel DDoS attacks and supervise ongoing maintenance – all of which would impact on day-to-day work in offline scenarios.
Collaboration and project management
Data siloes are eliminated when approved employees are able to access each other’s files and folders. Final drafts and revisions are resolved in-situ, rather than generating lengthy email threads. Collaborative sharing tools like Trello and Slack are ideal for maintaining a master document, instead of a dozen separate versions bearing the same filename. Greater visibility also simplifies discussions, while comments and notes make it clear to everyone what needs to happen next. It’s even possible to grant freelancers or contracts access temporary access to selected files.
One of the key benefits of cloud hosting is the reduction in capital expenditure – tablets with detachable keyboards supplanting laptops, and affordable online subscriptions in lieu of licence purchases. There’s less requirement for IT personnel salaries, since staff may be superfluous until a crisis or emergency arises. But cloud savings go beyond workforce rationalization. Digital documentation brings a company closer to the utopia of a paperless office, as well as reducing the carbon footprint generated by printer cartridges, storage equipment, etc. This facilitates relocation to smaller offices where staff commonly hot desk, reducing everything from heating bills to rental payments.
A laptop left on a train used to be the stuff of IT nightmares, especially if it contained confidential data or expensively licenced software. Yet in the cloud, two-factor authentication should prevent even an IT-savvy thief accessing sensitive files and folders. Login credentials could be changed in response to a potential breach, and remotely wiping a device wouldn’t erase anything irreplaceable. Although lost hardware is still expensive to replace, it’s far less damaging to a company’s bottom line than the potential fines incurred by sensitive C-drive content resulting in data breaches. This is especially true post-GDPR, where fines could equal €20 million.