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We may not realise it but we are all reaping the benefits of Cloud Computing.   Only a few years ago Cloud Computing was considered cutting edge, the preserve of large corporations, but in a very short space of time it has become the norm, the standard approach for running business applications, and traditional desktop software considered “legacy applications”.  Millions of systems from online shopping, online CRM and accounting systems, email, and the games and social media we use on computers and mobile devices are all the product of cloud based systems, running on remote servers in state of the art data centres.   Here is a list of just some of the benefits of Cloud Computing for business:

1. Benefits of Cloud Computing for flexible working

Businesses that recently may have been forced to make their employees work from home are now realising the many benefits that this kind of flexible working arrangements can bring.  Cost savings, increased productivity, better work life balance.   Speaking with a new cloud adopter, an Independent Financial Advisory business, the other day the owner was saying that since all his team were now working from home he was seriously considering closing the physical office permanently and saving himself £20k a year on office rental.

Cloud solutions enable flexible working by:

  • Enabling employees to work from anywhere there is an Internet connection, including 4G and 5G connections.
  • Allowing users to work on any device, not just the office Windows PC but also Apple Macs, Tablets and mobile phones.
  • Reducing the risks to the business from employees using their own devices by keeping data and documents “in the cloud” rather than copied on to laptops, USB sticks etc.
  • Facilitating flexible seating arrangements i.e. hot desking, which can make it easier to manage part time working.

2. Scalability is a big benefit of Cloud Computing

Even cloud computing companies still have the odd customer with local servers that they support.   Working with a local customer recently to specify a new on-premise server, we were debating how much disk space to purchase upfront, do they pay for extra drive bays in case the data storage requirements grow more than expected, do they buy fast, expensive SSD disks with less data storage or slower SAS or SATA disks for more space for their money?  With Cloud Computing all these questions disappear.  The benefit of Cloud computing means you pay as you go, only paying for what you need, never buying an over spec’d server just in case you need it (but never do), and conversely, when growing your business, never wasting money on an under spec’d server that has to be replaced early because it’s not up to an increased work load.

Upgrading servers, even just buying extra disks or more memory could mean waiting a week or two for hardware to be delivered and arranging downtime to replace it.   With Cloud Computing the remote servers are virtualised so extra space or resources can be added in minutes, and just as easily removed when there’s a need to scale down.   If you need extra computing power to run cloud analytics or big data queries then cloud based services can be scaled on a short-term basis to manage this kind of workload.

3. Can Cloud Computing reduce IT costs?

The biggest advantages of cloud computing from a financial point of view are consistency and certainty of monthly outgoings, and moving from a CAPEX to an OPEX cost.   Cloud Computing can give businesses the competitive edge by delivering significant cost savings in the following ways:

  • Little or no upfront cost, just pay as you go subscription service.
  • Cost of upgrades to underlying operating systems and software is included.
  • Businesses don’t need to employ in house IT specialists.
  • Businesses reduce or eliminate the cost of external IT support companies or managed services providers.
  • Cost saving in reduced energy consumption.
  • Space saving, customers don’t need to build their own data centre to house local servers
  • Reduced risk of system downtime affecting productivity, saving time and money.
  • Flexible Cloud Computing contracts means no wasting money on resources that are not needed.
  • When rapidly growing your business, you don’t miss out on profitable opportunities waiting for your local IT systems to catch up.

4. The benefit of Cloud Computing for Business Continuity

Cloud Computing providers go to great lengths to ensure that the systems you use stay up and running.  These may include:

  • Multiple power connections to the servers, racks, UPS batteries, and the data centre itself, plus auto starting diesel generators in case of power cuts.
  • Multiple internet connections to the data centre in case one goes down.
  • Early warning of natural disasters including smoke and fire detection/suppressant, and flood detection.
  • Physical security to control access to the data centre, security guards.
  • Multiple physical servers in a cloud environment acting as failover if hardware fails.
  • Data striped across multiple disks so nothing is lost if a disk needs to be replaced, which can also be done without any downtime “hot swap”.
  • Backups of data.
  • Managed security systems including firewalls, anti-malware, managed updates to operating systems.
  • Systems engineers available around the clock to fix problems.

Imagine the cost of implementing these safeguards for local IT systems and servers, and also the cost of business downtime when systems fail or your premises is affected by natural disasters such as flood or fire.   Cloud Computing is able to dramatically improve the resilience of your IT systems using economies of scale so individual companies don’t bear the brunt of the costs.   Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plans also need to plan for unavailability of cloud based systems, maybe because of local internet or power issues, this may include working from home or other sites, or a manual “paper based” system during a disaster event.

5. How does Cloud Computing benefit collaboration?

Whether it’s the flow of data in day to day business processes, or teams working on one off projects, people need to be able to communicate and work together regardless of their location.   Cloud Computing has brought immense benefits for collaboration especially where teams are working in different sites, or different countries. Some of the benefits of Cloud Computing when collaborating on work or projects include:

  • Sharing files and documents saved in cloud storage.
  • Sharing data in real time in cloud-based applications.
  • Communicating using modern apps like Microsoft Teams or Zoom.
  • Collaborating on projects from multiple locations in real time in a cloud environment.
  • Easily providing temporary access to documents and data to third parties such as accountants on contract workers.

6. System upgrades are another area of cost saving when using Cloud Computing

Anyone who’s ever needed to upgrade an operating system or a major upgrade to a core application will know that there can be a big impact in time and money as well as user disruption.   Windows servers may need new server licences and client access licences (CALs), specialist IT skills are required to upgrade systems and if applications are being upgraded then there’s usually a major job upgrading software on users’ desktops, as well as significant one-off outlay for upgraded licences.   Not so with Cloud Computing, upgrades to back-end servers are usually manged by the provider, and application upgrades are also done once on the cloud systems with no changes being made on users’ PCs.   Applications become subscription based so cloud adopters pay-as-you-go and are always eligible for the latest version.

Automatic software updates are vital to patch security vulnerabilities, but they need to be managed carefully to avoid system failures caused by the occasional dodgy update that hasn’t been tested thoroughly.  Recovering a blue screened server caused by problem updates is an expensive job for you or your managed service providers.   This is another advantage of cloud computing, if it happens to cloud infrastructure the provider will have the skills and resources to fix it quickly.

7. Does Cloud Computing have the benefit of better security?

We’ve already mentioned the physical security the data centres used by cloud solutions have to protect your data so perhaps the best way to judge if cloud computing is more secure is to look at how secure the alternative is:

A local, on-premise, server has obvious physical vulnerabilities, anyone breaking into your premises has the potential to steal the server.  Yes, they would need usernames and passwords to log on to it, unless they simply stole the disks, if these aren’t encrypted then the thief has your data.

Users wanting to work from home will use a variety of methods to copy data so they can work on it, either copying it to their laptops, or using an external USB drive to copy files, either of which can be stolen or simply left on the train.   The reputational impact of news reports that a company has had a data breach can have as big an impact as the loss of sensitive information itself.

How secure is your network from hackers? Do you have open Wi-Fi connections? Do you know if the user that took his laptop home didn’t lend it to his kids who inadvertently installed some malware, logging the users keystrokes and transmitting their password back to the perpetrator?

Do you know how reliable your backups are, and do you practice restoring data or whole systems?  This could be your only get out of jail card if ransomware infected your on-premise server.  Your Disaster Recovery plan needs to take all these and many other risks into account

All of these issues would be addressed by a cloud computing service

8. Cloud Computing may help achieve regulatory compliance

Businesses in regulated industries may have to prove their compliance, particularly in regard to sensitive information and personal data. A Cloud Computing service provider will usually be certified for Information Security standard such as ISO 27001 meaning they are audited annually to check they comply with their own information security policies and procedures.  The use of cloud technology will ensure a lot of boxes can be ticked when reviewing your own data security compliance procedures.

9. Cloud Computing will reduce your carbon footprint

Cloud based services may have dozens of high-powered servers running in different locations in order to provide the cloud-based applications that businesses need.  The cloud technology is designed to run at maximum capacity, getting the maximum computing power for the money.   However, if each of these individual businesses ran their own servers, on-premise, then that dozens becomes hundreds or thousands of individual servers consuming significant amounts of power 24/7 and often they may only really be used for 8-10 hours a day.  Businesses looking to reduce their carbon footprint will benefit significantly from cloud infrastructures.

10. Cloud Computing helps you implement a Bring Your Own Device policy securely

People have access to a plethora of high spec devices at home, PC’s, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones; and use Cloud storage to save their photographs and other files.  Often these devices are better spec than the PC back in the office, causing frustration amongst the workforce.   IT security has often meant that BYOD has been avoided and frowned upon.   However, cloud-based services can mean that there is no data held on these devices, and if complimented by multi-factor authentication there is a much less chance of sensitive information and data getting in to the wrong hands.  Therefore, the risk of using non-corporate standard devices is significantly reduced when combined with a cloud environment.

Your Office Anywhere have been providing bespoke hosted solutions based around Windows Remote Desktop Server since long before anyone had heard the term “Cloud Computing”.  If you are looking for cloud based solutions for your desktop applications, databases and documents then please get in touch via the form below.  If you would like to receive occasional emails about cloud computing offers please mention to join our mailing list.

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