Over time, we have been hired by a handful of customers to establish roadmaps for the careful adaptation of Cloud technologies to improve their businesses in various ways. It seems that these ‘Cloud in mind’ customers have been attracted by the huge possibilities linked with Cloud technology: ubiquitous accessibility, efficiency, cost savings, etc. The solution is to explore the various ways to supplant existing technologies with Cloud technology models, as well as new solutions that could potentially help these companies in ways that had not been considered.

As with any new or emerging technology, customers usually experience a setback to support a purpose or a guiding reason for the introduction of technology. These projects teach more about valid and practical business cases for the introduction of Cloud technology models that contribute positively to broader goals and business objectives. Because we firmly believe that ‘technology for the sake of technology’ is inherently bad, we’re happy that our analysis leads to the improvement not only of our customers’ technology environments, but also the improvement of your business in general. Therefore, this article will introduce you to Cloud technology and other related entities.

First of All, What Is Cloud Technology?
The Cloud = Internet. If you’re already using the Internet, you are effectively already using The Cloud. Therefore, don’t continue reading, unless of course you’re not using the Internet; in which case, keep reading for tips and tricks to discover the global network. Do you get the joke?

Those in the technology world have been designing network diagrams for years, often starting with the compulsory puffed Cloud at the centre of the design. The Cloud is a planet of data and information outside our inner networks, akin to a data pipe connecting our offices to a mythical place, where an avalanche of resources that are stored can be located. Therefore, the term ‘Cloud’.

When we currently refer to The Cloud, we’re usually referring to a package that is not internally hosted on a server or workstation, but in a data centre; consumers use an interface through desktop software or (more commonly) a web browser. Consequently, the service provider secures all data, with the administrative aspect of running the software. This changes the thought pattern when it comes to implementing the company software. Traditionally, the introduction of new software tools entailed significant capital expenditure – not only for the software itself, but also software customisation – the hardware in which it resides and the implementation costs associated with its installation and operation. Cloud technology does not eliminate all these elements, but certainly reduces costs and increases the speed of implementation.

Nowadays, you can use some Cloud-based technologies without even knowing. For instance, email providers like Hotmail, Yahoo Mail and Gmail are Cloud-oriented. This is because you can access any of your emails on these platforms using any web browser. Others include Twitter, Facebook, Skype, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google Voice, etc.

Here are some ways Cloud technology can help your company achieve some common business goals:

Cost Reduction: Sometimes, it’s possible for a company to reduce the size of its server or the number of servers needed to manage the business. To do this, they typically replace a current client / server software directly with a Cloud-based solution and disable the legacy server environment. For example, a company using a traditional bookkeeping system can replace it with a cloud-hosted solution. The company then removes the servers running the old system and achieves cost reduction via energy conservation, which eliminates the need for continuous updating of the server environment, reducing the staff needed to support servers, thus reducing the stress on the backup solution / protection of company data, etc.

Introducing New Functionalities And Efficiency: Similar to cost reduction initiatives, many companies can now present even prohibitive technological solutions. For instance, many do not have the firepower to implement a traditional CRM system, but have enough for a monthly subscription to a CRM package that is Cloud-focused. This gives the company an efficient enterprise-based solution at a reasonably-priced entry cost. In addition, Cloud computing models allow the rapid implementation of new technologies with the easy introduction of new features; think about how Facebook quickly changes the way it interacts with your platform. You can do this, because it’s relatively easy to introduce new features and those that enrich (or frustrate) your user experience.

Improving Accessibility: More and more organisations are demanding that their software tools work just as they do in the office, at home, and on the road. Cloud-based software distribution makes this much easier. Most Cloud-focused solutions are enabled for smartphone applications, including iPhone and Android, as well as for tablet operating systems.

Greater Disaster Resistance: Brendan Wilde, head of IT at www.discountdomains.co.nz perfectly explains it: “Many Cloud-based backup providers are rapidly replacing local tape or hard disk backup solutions. The advantage of this arrangement is that backup data is stored intrinsically off-site and automatically transported to a data centre that may be many miles away; thus creating greater resistance to potential disasters. Certain strong Cloud-focused backups also factor in a recovery model that is virtualisation-based”. He also added that these technologies will store a ‘duplicated’ version of your server environment in a data centre, available on demand in the event of a disaster in the production environment.

Is Cloud Technology All Rosy?
The short answer is ‘No’. There are a couple of important points about the negative aspects associated with Cloud technology. Firstly, consider the continuous cost compared to continuous control. In general terms (like most things in life), the less something costs, the less control you have over it. On the contrary, the opposite is true. This principle also applies to Cloud computing. Because it often shares resources with many other users and businesses, it is forced to adapt to the common characteristics associated with the solution it’s using. This can limit your ability to customise a solution based on your needs, workflows, processes, etc. However, with many Cloud-based software solutions, there are numerous customisation possibilities, which sometimes compete with traditional client / server applications.

My Take
Through the use of Cloud technologies, storage of confidential information will reside in The Cloud (a data centre, hosting provider or other third parties) rather than on the local network. This is why it’s important to consider the protection of data and transport methods. Partner with only Cloud-based hosting solution providers and understand what other companies use, as well as which technologies are utilised to ensure data security. Make sure that your contract with the solution provider balances the responsibility and clearly describes the measures taken to ensure the privacy of your data. If you feel uncomfortable in any way or don’t understand any part of the agreement, then seek professional assistance to review the contract.