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The Exclusive Magazine for the Building Service Contracting Industry Since 1981
April 08, 2013

Working in the Cloud

Written by  Michelle DeGregorio

28-CloudComputing

5 Benefits of Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is one of today’s most pervasive tech trends— but ironically, it’s still running under a lot of people’s radar. In fact, many businesses are currently using cloud computing on a regular basis without being aware of it. For example, if you’ve ever used Google Calendar, Google Drive, or any public email service like Yahoo or AOL, you’ve used the cloud.

Basically, cloud computing is a way to describe how computing resources and services are delivered to users. These services are accessed and delivered through a network—the Internet. It’s a bit like renting versus owning. Rather than buying and installing your own server, for instance, you rent the use of a cloud-based server to store your data. Instead of purchasing a software program, you access that program via the cloud. Owners of the cloud services, or providers, maintain the infrastructure and platforms of the computing resources, and they typically charge a fee for their use. However, some cloud services, like Google Drive, are free to the public.

The cloud computing model offers numerous benefits. Because the Internet can now be accessed using a wide variety of devices— laptops, cell phones, tablets—the cloud provides mobile access to a huge range of services even from remote locations. Costs can be lowered as well, since businesses don’t need to buy the software, hardware, and other computing resources themselves. Further savings are achieved because businesses don’t have to pay for the power use and maintenance of servers and other infrastructure.

Small businesses looking for a competitive edge can turn to the cloud to get quick and easy access to the computing resources they need. They don’t have to wait for the installation of their own platforms and servers, nor do they need to hire their own IT teams for operation. Plus, many cloud services are “pay as you go,” so users only pay for the resources they need and don’t get stuck with applications they never use. Such efficiency provides businesses with enhanced scalability, allowing them to allocate resources to the areas where they are needed most and scale back resources in other areas.

While cloud computing offers many benefits, business owners should carefully research the cloud services that are right for their particular situation. To help you get started, here are five common benefits that cloud computing can provide:

1. Accessibility

Enhanced accessibility is one of the biggest benefits of the cloud. Cloud services are available 24/7 at any location with Internet access, so employees no longer have to do all of their work in close proximity to the office computers or servers. Computing resources can be accessed easily by employees in the field using mobile devices, such as smart phones, tablets, and laptops. The cloud also makes online collaboration between employees, employers, and customers more accessible. Cloud-based collaboration tools can range from document sharing on a local scale to organizing complex communication networks for large companies at the global level. Cloud computing also allows companies to better interact with their customers, which enhances both customer service and marketing. For example, cloud-based tools, such as Salesforce.com, allow companies to share company information directly with customers, and also allow customers to create their own online communities, where they can share their experiences with the company with others.

2. Cost savings

By switching to the cloud, businesses can reduce expenses, as they no longer need to invest in expensive software programs for the whole office or foot the bill for the installation, operation, and maintenance of onsite servers. Cloud computing also increases cost efficiency because providers allow companies to purchase only the storage space and bandwidth they require at any given time period. Additionally, some cloud providers offer pay-as-you-go services, allowing businesses to only pay for the amount of time the services are actually used. Businesses can utilize the cloud resources when they’re needed and even opt out down the road if they no longer need a service. Compared to purchasing their own onsite resources, pay as you go fees for cloud services require significantly less investment. Such services can be particularly advantageous for small start-ups that don’t have access to large amounts of funding. Finally, compared to the expense of hiring full-time IT employees to install, update, and maintain onsite computing resources, the cloud allows businesses to outsource such services and leave the maintenance and management to cloud providers.

3. Energy efficiency

Cloud computing has been known to significantly cut energy costs, especially when replacing a company’s own on-site servers. According to the technology company CDW, cloud computing is a “game changer” in terms of its potential for increases energy efficiency. CDW’s fourth annual Energy Efficient IT Report, which surveyed 760 people working in private businesses, nonprofits, schools and governments, found that the cloud’s virtualized servers and storage are capable of reducing energy use by 28 percent. One of the most obvious savings for businesses comes from reduced electric bills incurred from running their own onsite servers and other hardware. Moreover, because users can remotely access their company’s programs and data, the cloud offers enhanced telecommuting options for employees. Telecommuting can not only cut down on the need for office space and power usage, but it also reduces carbon emissions, since it eliminates the need for employees to use gasoline- powered transportation to get to and from work. A study undertaken by the global technology company Accenture and computing giant Microsoft found that compared with using computer applications located onsite, cloud computing can reduce energy use and carbon emissions by 30 percent. And because cloud services can be used by more than one company at a time, savings could be increased even further through sharing of cloud resources. The study found several small businesses could cut their energy use and carbon emissions by nearly 90 percent by sharing cloud services.

4. Enhanced data storage and protection

With nearly all of a company’s important information and records stored on computers these days, keeping that data safe is always a top priority—and cloud computing offers several advantages in this arena. By using offsite servers on the cloud, companies no longer have to worry about their servers crashing or otherwise failing. With the cloud, a company’s data is stored on remote servers that are constantly being backed up and monitored for potential problems. Data security is enhanced by the cloud as well. Cloud storage protects and maintains data using the latest advances in computing technology, which means the business owner can worry less about their technology being hacked or crashing and focus more on their primary business operations. Cloud storage can also improve data recovery time. File recovery from a cloud provider is improved because the data is streamed over larger networks, rather than being stored on local tapes.

5. Scalability

Cloud computing provides enhanced scalability of a business’ computer resources, allowing owners to either upscale or downscale the software or hardware infrastructure as needed. Most cloud service providers will accommodate a business’ new scale by increasing or decreasing its services and/or changing bandwidth as needed. This scalability further reduces costs and wastes. Because the cloud provider owns and maintains the computing infrastructure, businesses aren’t stuck paying for excess hardware, storage capacity, or programs if they’re no longer needed. Such flexible scalability takes away the risk of wasted resources if your business needs to add services in certain areas or reduce them in others.

Last modified on April 06, 2016

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