Intro to cloud technology

3 tips on how to use the cloud

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Among their top 3 challenges, according to most business leaders, is the ability to keep pace with new technology - like the cloud.

Being able to understand what new technology offers and how to use it to increase productivity and maintain competitiveness is not easy, because technology moves moves faster than our ability to keep up.

Small businesses, in this regard, have a distinct advantage over larger ones, and we might well be entering an age where small companies start out-competing big ones because of technology.

While big enterprises have the budget to invest in new technologies, they are often slow moving (having to secure buy-in from all stakeholders). Once implemented, it is difficult for them to re-implement 6 months down the line.

But small business can adapt and evolve much quicker. Staying on the cutting edge of new technology and keeping their nose out in front as a result.

This article will look at 3 strategies you can use to make sure that you are getting the most out of new technologies - all of them involve cloud computing in one form or another (since this is how everything is going to move from here on).

Why move to the cloud?

I heard an argument on the radio the other day by a commentator who said that cloud software and services were actually more expensive than traditional software.

He reasoned that cloud infrastructure was expensive to setup, and cloud providers had to cover their costs by passing them on to customers.

He went on to say that customers of cloud based service providers never owned their software, and therefore had to continually pay to use cloud services. This, he concluded, was why buying software was cheaper in the long run.

This argument is incredibly shortsighted and misleading.

Buying software might give you the advantage of owning it, but in 6 months time that software is going to be out-of-date, redundant and worthless.

So great, you own something that you can't use or sell, and in the meantime, your competitors are leveraging the latest updates and improvements that cloud services must provide in order to remain competitive.

There is one simple, underlying reason that the cloud will win:

It's a better way of doing things!

Regardless of what technical and financial limitations, or other obstacles are in the way, the cloud will succeed because it is faster, cheaper, more powerful, and more flexible.

Consider this: when PCs first arrived on the scene, they weren't that great. Many people would have argued that sticking to a typewriter was better than using punch cards. And, for a very short time, maybe they were right.

But we all know how that turned out. So, which side of this technology revolution do you want to be on?

1. Use cloud software & services

Stop buying traditional software packages wherever there is an established and proven cloud based alternative.

Two examples that pop into mind immediately are the cloud accounting services:

  • FreshBooks: lightweight, online cloud accounting system - used by over 5 million people
  • Quickbooks Online: the world's most popular accounting software available online. A range of packages to suit everyone.

These are not fly by night, tin can operations. Quickbooks is an offering by Intuit, the most popular brand of accounting software in the U.S, and Freshbooks boasts over 5 million users already.

While Freshbooks focuses on offering accounting services to smaller organizations, Quickbooks has a range of packages that caters for much larger enterprises.

These are viable technology offerings for practically anyone, and they are going to continually evolve and update to keep their clients and customers at the leading edge of productivity.

If you don't adapt, you will be less competitive in your administration, and overall productivity will suffer as a result.

2. Use cloud storage

For me, the convenience of being able to access and share data, files and documents from anywhere at any time is such an advantage that it is an absolute no-brainer.

I would say that, for most, if not all, your data storage requirements, the cloud is a far more sophisticated and elegant solution than traditional file or data storage systems.

File sharing is where the cloud first cut its teeth, and so there are a number of fairly well established cloud storage solutions.

Here are a few of the leading services:

  • MyPC Backup: offers complete, cloud based PC backup and storage facilities
  • Just Cloud: provides automatic, cloud storage, file syncing and file sharing

One nice feature of many cloud based services is that it is easy for them to offer a free trial. Unlike traditional software, which has to be purchased in-store or online, cloud services allow you to get setup quickly and easily, and for free.

If you don't like it, try another one, until you have a storage solution that fits perfectly.

3. Use cloud communications

One of the most useful side-effects of migrating to cloud based solutions is that they can completely do away with hardware requirements.

The value of most companies is in the data, skills and information it holds - not the hardware infrastructure it owns.

One area where the cloud is almost completely obviating the need for hardware is in communications. Communications is about information, and is therefore ideally suited for the digital medium.

But, traditionally, communications needed complicated and expensive hardware (PBX systems) in order to support these communications.

Cloud based virtual PBX systems now allow organizations (of all sizes) to implement exactly the same internal and customer facing communications as a fortune 500 companies who had the cash to invest in expensive communications hardware.

It's now possible to do with tens of dollars what might have costs tens of thousands of dollars only a few years ago, using online point and click.

RingCentral offers complete cloud based fax and phone services, from lone entrepreneurs up to offices with hundreds of employees.

Again, there's not really much to decide...

Either spend thousands on antiquated communications hardware that requires expert technicians to install, or spend a fraction of the amount, and have your assistant set things up for you over their morning coffee.

So, whether or not you are hesitant about migrating to the cloud, remember that sooner or later the cloud will be the dominant way of operating and managing things.

Sooner or later you will make the switch, and the later you make the switch, the more ground you will have lost in the interim.

What are your thoughts on new and emerging technologies and the cloud? Share your tips and experiences in the comments.

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