Do you use the cloud? Or is that merely a meteorological term to you, rather than a potential business tool? The ‘cloud’ seems to have been at the forefront of almost everything online for the last few years, and there have been some very big names like Microsoft, Google and Apple actively involved in developing it as the next ‘big thing’. But what is the cloud, and how can you use it to modernise your business?
What is the ‘cloud’?
Cloud computing is the next evolutionary stage of the Internet, and is basically a virtual remote server that can be accessed by users whenever and wherever they want. It allows you to store data remotely without filling up your own hard drive, and also means you can access that data even if you’re a thousand miles away from your own PC or computer. For businesses, it opens up a wealth of possibilities. Invoicing dates due while you’re on holiday? Not a problem – if you’re cloud connected then you can send your invoices on time from an Internet café at your resort, or even from your smart phone.
Is it safe?
One of the biggest worries many businesses have is whether the cloud is a secure environment and just how safe the data stored on there is. Are cloud serves safe from viral attacks? Is your personal information protected? The answer to both questions is yes. Cloud operators are duty-bound to protect your information (but if it’s vital information such as accounts then you’d be wise to back up your data on a remote hard-drive of your own too).
How can the cloud help my business?
The cloud is a perfect opportunity to streamline and future-proof your business. Not only does it allow you access to your important information whenever you want, but there are also specific software packages that have been formulated to work with the next generation cloud systems. In particular cloud accounting software can be a real bonus for your operation. By granting access to those who need it, cloud accounting software means that you can manage your finances, allow your accountant or payroll clerk direct access or let your sales team update invoice payments, statements and monthly figures. All of this means that you can see exactly what is happening to your business finances in real time.
Going over to cloud computing is more than just a bit of an ‘upgrade’. If you’re running an established business it’s important to plan ahead and decide what systems can be migrated over to the cloud, and which you’d rather keep in-house. Accounts, payroll, intranet services and HR are all suitable for migration – and setting them up on the cloud could also save you money too.
If you’re already working on the virtual plain then transferring your operations to the cloud is a relatively straightforward process of contacting a cloud provider and moving everything over in one hit. However, make sure that the provider you choose offers continuing customer support, so that you have an automatic ‘go-to’ person should you encounter any problems.
Cloud computing is now cheaper, more secure and easier to manage than many of the previous systems. It reduces the amount of capital you have to invest in things like servers and mainframes, allows you instant access to all aspects of your business, and is suitable for any sized operation, big or small. Cloud computing is the future of business – and not just a meteorological term!
Author Bio: JonJon Yeung writes about software products for small businesses. For more info please visit Intuit for more about cloud accounting software).