Not much more than a decade ago, the world of software was a very different place. Before we all had laptops, smartphones and tablets, we had big honking beige boxes under our desks. Of course, the box on its own wasn’t useful, so we filled it with software to make it so. Whether it was an accounting program, a word processor, or a video game, these pieces of software all had one thing in common. They all came on disks: compact, floppy, ZIP (remember those?), or otherwise.
This was cutting-edge software technology at the time, but this approach had inherent flaws. First, once you installed the software, you were stuck with the same version until you decided to upgrade, which was a nuisance for individual users and a major headache for larger organizations. Second, once you installed the software, you were stuck with a pile of installation disks to lug around in case your machine broke and you had to set up a replacement computer with those same programs. It was just a pain – until the advent of the cloud.
Cloud-based applications have overcome many of the limitations of software usage. They are constantly updated, available from any internet-connected PC, and can be billed as a service, eliminating massive upgrade costs.
Still, many businesses wonder about the usefulness of cloud software, and others see “cloud” as a nebulous buzzword used by software companies to shill out more code. Both are misconceptions.
In fact, cloud-based applications like Office 365, or O365 for short, are revolutionizing the way smaller companies do business, enabling them to compete on larger stages than ever before. Let’s go through a few reasons why.
1. Up and running 24/7
Before the cloud, running an office network felt a little precarious at times. All it took was a simple hard drive failure on your office server, and your entire operation could come to a screeching halt. No longer. Cloud-based software embodies the very definition of redundancy. In case of failure, the data centers that form the cloud can easily shift workloads from one server to another. Even if an entire data center shuts down, another data center in the same network will take on the load until normal operations are restored. This is known as geo-redundancy.
Cloud security has gotten a bad rap in the press. Generally speaking, storing data on the cloud is much more secure than on a conventional on-premises server. Data centers are among the most secure buildings you can find, requiring multiple forms of authentication to gain access. Access is restricted to a select few trusted technicians. And, providers such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Rackspace hire the most talented minds in the world of cybersecurity. If you want to learn more, here is a good primer
3. Predictable budgeting
Before the cloud, IT budgets were subject to unpredictable and often massive expenditures of capital to purchase on-premises hardware and expensive software licenses. A sudden hardware failure could mean another unexpected outpouring of much-needed cash, and licenses for enterprise-grade desktop software were anything but cheap. Heck, even a desktop version of QuickBooks today will set you back nearly $400.
Cloud-based software platforms are billed as a service. Clients choose what programs they need and generally pay a flat monthly fee to use them. This makes it very easy to budget for software expenses, and it’s one less headache for you, the business owner.
For years, many people – especially business owners – clamored for powerful, easy-to-use collaboration software, yet found nothing. They saw the potential of multiple remote users working simultaneously on a single project as a valuable advantage. Unfortunately, many users were working with different versions of the same software. Some were on Word 2007, others on Word 2010. Some on PC, and others on Mac. Trying to create an online collaboration platform that could seamlessly interact with all these different setups was nigh impossible.
Nowadays, all you need is a web browser and a decent internet connection. Cloud-hosted collaboration platforms like SharePoint keep all the most recent versions of each application online. They appear and function the same as their desktop counterparts, but you use them in a browser window. No compatibility issues, no versioning issues, just an easy-to-use collaborative environment.
With unlimited software power always just a click away, now is a great time to put the cloud to work for your own organization. Contact us to learn how to make the most of cloud computing for your business.