How We Embraced The “Cloud Computing” Revolution

The author of this post is Rob Lucas MSc MBCS, the IT Consultant/Specialist at RLS Computer Services who provide a wide range of IT services.

Cloud Computing 2011

The cloud revolution is here, but what is it and how can a small business benefit from it? This article will answer these questions and hopefully give you an insight into how we are using the cloud to help us work smarter and save money and time in delivering IT solutions to our customers.

So what is cloud computing? In basic terms, cloud computing means applications and services that function over the internet independent of what computer or device you are using. Consider this, typically when you want to write a letter, you open your word processing program, type the document, save it to your hard drive and print it using your printer. Now imagine opening your word processor as a web page and then saving it on a virtual hard drive, sharing it with a recipient and then throw in the fact you did all of this with your smartphone; this is the essence of cloud computing.

So what are the key benefits?

First by using cloud technology you lower the cost of licencing, typically you have to purchase a software licence for every computer device you want to use that application on, which costs money; with cloud computing you greatly reduce or expel that cost.
Second, you make it possible to do more with what you’ve got, because the advanced part of the technology exists on hosted or virtual servers and is delivered over the web plus they are not hardware dependent, you don’t need to worry about buying the fastest, latest computing devices.
Third, you get to work smarter, by this we mean using technology so that either you save time, money or it helps to enhance the profitability of your business. Imagine running your business without walls or barriers, you could work from home, from a shared office or from a beach in Hawaii; the cloud can give you the flexibility to work the way you want to and lowering the cost of running your business.

How we use cloud technology

Once you start realising the benefits, you can start investigating how you can use this technology in your business. We use the cloud to offer our customers a virtual experience when delivering support solutions. We have developed “Your Virtual helpdesk” an online solution that delivers technical support, access to online video tutorials, how to guides, a knowledgebase and gives the customer access to their account 24/7. Everything is available online, customers can login and search for self-help guides and read them on their phones or with a computer, if reading is not your thing then you can watch videos on anything from how to print from the web to how to use your data enabled phone as your Internet connection for your PC. If the customer needs help then they can call a
technician for immediate remote support straight to their desktop or mobile phone, even the billing is dealt with in the cloud using Kashflow’s online accounting system and PayPal.

How to make the move to the cloud

There are so many ways that you can embrace cloud computing in your business, you might want to adopt a platform strategy and use cloud based office applications or it might be storage that you are after and use one of the many online virtual storage facilities. However, the first and the most important part of a cloud strategy is to make sure you have a web presence, without it you cannot successfully establish your new cloud enterprise or solution.
Next, move your databases, by giving key employees access to important information virtually from anywhere at anytime means that you become more productive, less brick reliant and remove the cost of desktop based applications, saving your business money.

Top tips on how you can use the cloud

1. Why buy when you can rent, renting a server to host your databases, files or website is as much about security as it is about cost.
2. Consider using Voice over Internet Protocol services (VoIP), services like Skype are free for Skype to Skype calls and have a low cost for Skype to landline calls, SMS messaging and you can also place conference calls.
3. Move your emails into the cloud, hosted Exchange servers not only means you don’t need to worry about managing your own mail servers but it also means emails can be accessed over the web or on a mobile device.
4. Learn to delegate and collaborate, you can share files with people outside your company easily using services like Dropbox.
5. When renewing your mobile contract make sure it is cloud ready with unlimited data usage and pre-loaded applications like Skype and MSN.
6. Take advantage of social networks to market and sell your business services and products, services like Facebook and Twitter are great cloud apps and they are free.
7. Don’t backup to tapes or discs, instead use the cloud and backup online.
8. Use cloud apps that help with managing your business, tools like CRM, HR, accounting and payroll can all help simplify and reduce costs.
9. Make your world wireless, most computing devices today are wireless, so by embracing the cloud you should also embrace a wireless environment.
10. Become greener, by moving some or all of your working practices into the cloud could greatly lower your carbon emissions.

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