What are the principle benefits of cloud computing for businesses?
Cloud computing has been around for some years now, initially as a somewhat hazy concept to describe the move from on-premise to off-premise IT, and in more recent times, as a more defined hosted service delivery model. Greater numbers of businesses - both large and small - are now choosing to embrace the cloud, eager to make the most of their IT budgets and maximise return on investment.
While some have committed to a full-scale overhaul of their IT setup from the outset, others have dipped their toes in the water by testing cloud services for non-critical functions. Having experienced success with their initial deployment, many have embarked on a wider rollout of hosted services - to either complement or replace their existing infrastructure. And the positive reports have not gone unnoticed by other companies, who - conscious of the success their rivals have experienced in the cloud - have recognised the potential value in their own upgrade.
Cloud computing can benefit companies in a number of ways, depending upon their size, scale, sector and strategic goals. Here are five of the top advantages of sourcing IT services in the cloud:
Lower capital expenditure
The ability to source IT services on-demand - as and when they are required - allows businesses to move to an investment model based on operational expenditure. No longer are they required to commit to large-scale capital projects, spending thousands on servers and software licences which may only have a limited lifespan. When businesses source IT services in the cloud, it is the vendor that takes responsibility for the majority of the infrastructure. Businesses simply become consumers of IT services rather than the owners of the hardware.
Easier maintenance and upgrades
Because the cloud computing provider is responsible for server, software and network management, in-house IT professionals can be allocated other work. No longer do they need to spend all day simply keeping the company's PC fleet working properly. Cloud vendors employ dedicated teams of experts whose sole responsibility is ensuring continuity of service.
In terms of upgrades, these are provided at the vendor-end, rather than in-house, which saves both time and money for cloud users. When the cloud provider invests in new solutions, these are made available to customers, enabling them to access advanced tools and applications at no extra cost.
Greater flexibility and mobility
With cloud services at their fingertips, employees can work from almost any location. They can access important files, data, documents and IT tools from a range of devices from almost any connected location. Providing they have the required bandwidth, it is possible to work online, replicating the office environment and ensuring employees can work as productively as possible.
Last year, a study conducted by IDG highlighted the range of services utilised by business employees in the cloud. These included work email (94 per cent), office apps (76 per cent) virtual private network server (75 per cent), databases (72 per cent), archives (55 per cent), production systems (55 per cent), CRM (47 per cent) and video conferencing (25 per cent).
Continuity of business
An associated benefit of remote working capability is the fact that, in the event of a disaster, the continuity of operations should never be in doubt. Should there be a fire, flood, theft, technology outage, or snow and ice prevent people from making it into the office, they have the option of working from a different location. Employees can simply log on as normal, access their work desktop, and continue as they would have done on any normal working day. All documents, files and data are hosted in the cloud, meaning they are accessible from almost any system, providing the user has the necessary access codes.
Improved IT security
In the early days of the cloud, concerns over the security of data hosted off-site were seen as a notable inhibitor to service adoption. However, as cloud computing has matured, and businesspeople have gained more of an understanding as to how it works, many of these fears have been allayed.
Rather than weakening IT security, there is a case for saying that cloud computing improves companies' defences. This is because of the huge amount of money cloud providers spend on securing their data centre infrastructure, and keeping their customers' data safe. Vendors benefit from economies of scale - they can afford to invest in the latest solutions and preventative approaches, whereas relatively few individual businesses can to the same degree.
Find out more about Microsoft's range of cloud services here.