Putting Your Business in the Cloud
The pros and cons of this innovative form of remote storage
Recently Microsoft launched their latest business offering, called Dynamics 365, which is a powerful business suite of applications that focus on Customer Relationship Management as well as Enterprise Resource Planning. Unlike past editions of Office though, this software package is only available within the Microsoft Cloud ecosystem, Azure. In other words, you cannot load it onto your desktop computer or laptop, as it is only available through the internet, or ‘the cloud’. So what exactly is this cloud then?
What is the Cloud?
The so-called ‘cloud’ is easiest to understand as a theoretical place in cyberspace where data, networks or software applications are all accessed via the internet. Users log in and instead of using their own device’s hard drive to access what they need, they rely on internet computing instead.
In reality, all data will be stored and backed up on massive remote servers that could be located anywhere in the world. This eliminates the risk of you losing any data due to physical theft or breakdown of your machine or hard drive.
A great development of cloud computing for the home user or small business owner is Google’s Chromebooks, a laptop with no traditional operating system or software. It is easiest to think of these as machines designed solely to surf the internet. In the early days of their release, they were often shunned because their aim and use were not fully understood. But when you consider how many things you can actually do in the cloud now, the use of a laptop that has as its only purpose internet surfing, then conceptions soon start to change.
Consider the following:
- Chromebooks have no DVD player or hard drive. While some see that as a disadvantage, you need to remember that with the dominance of Netflix and Amazon Prime, nobody needs to buy box sets or DVDs anymore. So no DVD player means cheaper manufacturing costs.
- No hard drive means no lost data due to failing hardware.
- Chromebooks don’t overheat at all because of the absence of moving parts.
- Viruses and other malware are pretty much eliminated because Chromebooks don’t hold an operating system or any programs. Everything is accessed via your Google account on the internet.
- Google has a similar office package accessed via the Google ecosystem that eliminates the need to keep buying and updating an office suite.
- Storage all takes place on Google Drive, with automatic, instantaneous saving of work. Virtually no more data losses in power cuts or forgetting to save!
- Phenomenal battery life and start-up speeds because the system is so light. The laptop doesn’t get bogged down with unknown software over time because it doesn’t install any.
None of this would be possible for a Chromebook if it didn’t rely on their cloud system for storage and software extensions. The Chromebook is a revolutionary concept and it is starting to prove its worth.
MS Dynamics 365
Another great example of useful cloud applications is Microsoft’s Dynamics 365. This platform offers a vast array of business tools that all integrate seamlessly with each other to cover a broad depth of CSM and ERP needs, as well as the familiar Office package. Add to that Azure Cloud storage and MS Business Intelligence, and you have an immense total business package that is continually and automatically kept updated by Microsoft. Can you imagine installing that onto your device yourself if you had to download it from the internet!
Advantages of using the Cloud
- You can access your profiles and accounts from any device or any location around the globe with internet access.
- Simultaneous work can be done with collaborators at separate locations.
- Data is kept and backed up by experts, so accidental loss of data or failing hard drives are eliminated.
- Software updates are rolled out without any need for you to do anything apart from maybe logging out, then back in, or restarting your Chromebook on occasion.
Microsoft calls it ‘digital transformation’, and they are right, as more and more businesses migrate to cloud-based computing. While cloud adoption is still in the early stages, there is no reason for computing not to fully embrace it very soon. Sure, security of data at remote servers is a massive concern for firms and individuals, but hacking and malware has always been a threat, so there is no change there. What has changed though is the emergence of the ‘Internet of Things’, where everything is starting to be connected to everything else via the internet, so that your customer’s business asset can send programmed messages to your head office requesting an update, who can process the information on a cloud and send it to a field service person to work on. The applications are mind-boggling and it seems that cloud technology is only going to expand at a massive rate very quickly. The question is how will you approach this technological development for your business – ignore or embrace?