How Cloud Computing Helps You Gain a Competitive Edge

February 18th 2019 / By David Smetana

Cloud computing should no longer be considered a ‘nice to have’ option: it’s an important resource and a crucial element of your operation.

The benefits of cloud computing go beyond mere cost saving – it facilitates collaboration, communication and innovation. Numerous studies by leading IT corporations such as IBM, have found organisations that deploy cloud computing find themselves gaining a competitive advantage over challenger firms.

However, it’s true to say ‘the cloud’ still has an air of mystery surrounding it and there is some confusion about what it is, how it works and how it brings tangible benefits to a business. So, let us answer some common questions when it comes to cloud computing.

What is cloud storage?

The term ‘cloud storage’ refers to a procedure whereby your data is saved off-site, on dedicated servers in a data centre that is maintained by a third party. Rather than saving data locally, to physical servers and hard drives that are in your office, you save it remotely, via an internet connection, where it is always accessible providing you can connect to the web.

 What is cloud back-up?

Cloud back-up is usually part of a managed service offering where a third-party vendor, such as Chalkline, will manage a business’ entire IT infrastructure and supporting services. Using a cloud storage platform, your data is routinely saved to a remote server, where it is accessible from multiple and connected resources.

Cloud back-up doesn’t necessarily negate the need for a local back-up strategy, but it does provide a secure and efficient solution for replicating data, that can be encrypted for another level of security.

It’s important to keep in mind that the benefits of cloud computing aren’t provided with the initial implementation of the technology, it’s the changes that it enables. It requires team buy-in and engagement and often needs to be accompanied by training either by the vendor you choose to partner with, or with a dedicated member of staff that is responsible for IT within the business. Depending on the size of the business, this is often a chief information officer, IT manager or operations manager.

The cloud offers increased accessibility

Increased accessibility in the jewel in the crown of cloud computing benefits. Employees and individuals are no longer restricted by local networks, so flexibility of working is immediately improved. Data, documents, images, emails and much more can be accessed from anywhere, while collaborative working (multiple people working on a document simultaneously) is a breeze.  

This why cloud storage, as explained above, is so integral to changing the way businesses work. Instead of being stored on hard drives and onsite hardware, the data is remotely centralised, meaning that, as long as access is granted, data and files can be accessed from any location at any time - a real game-changer. This element leads on to a whole host of other benefits.

Embracing modern HR trends with cloud computing

The modern office environment has undergone a paradigm shift and the traditional ways of working are being challenged by a more dynamic and, in some ways, demanding workforce. We are waving goodbye to the stagnated 9-5 working hours, staring at the same four walls in the office, saving files to internal infrastructure.

Flexible working, remote working and ‘bring your own device’ are the modern workplace trends that SMEs are implementing and with good reason – employees thrive under these conditions. Bill Gates stated several years ago that as businesses became more competitive, it would be those that gave their employees most flexibility that would have the edge.

Studies have shown employees who are offered flexible working arrangements are more engaged, loyal and motivated. As well as these attributes that ultimately lead to better productivity, flexible working can offer further cost savings on office space, utilities and equipment, particularly where initiatives such as ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) are concerned.

In fact, a 2017 survey by Qualtrics found that 75% of millennials would take a pay cut to work for a company that offered flexible working arrangements.

Let’s put this into perspective. By offering flexible working options, your company would attract loyal, forward-thinking staff that value and are motivated by, the freedom to work in any location and have an influence over their working hours. These are the staff you want to work for YOU, not a competitor. But how many of your competitors are already offering this?

Cloud computing can act as a catalyst for implementing these modern workplace trends, which will ultimately lead to improvements to your bottom line.

Cost savings continued…

While we have touched upon some of the elements of cost savings, it’s worth detailing other areas where cloud computing can help companies to divert costs away from IT and instead invest into core business.

It’s good for cash flow and general finances. Cloud computing does not require the hefty upfront investment of on-site solutions and there are also reduced maintenance costs as this sits with your cloud provider. Upgrades and annual licence fees come with the package, while energy usage is also minimised because there is no longer energy-expensive hardware to power on site.

The cost risks in the event of physical damage, such as fire or floods, is almost minimised because your data is safely stored off-site and there is no need to re-invest in expensive server equipment and so on.

Cloud services also offer the ability to easily scale up when required, offering resources on a pay-as-you-go model, The burden of fixed costs is reduced and business leaders have peace of mind that they can be aggressive in business growth, following consumer and seasonal trends, but also scale back when necessary.

While capital investment may be required to ensure that other technology in the business supports a faster, more efficient and collaborative environment, the resulting increased business agility combined with ongoing cost savings make the initial investment worthwhile.

Tapping into international markets using cloud computing

Given the current political and economical uncertainty within UK borders, many businesses are keen to leverage the opportunities presented by countries across the globe, both from an employee and prospect perspective.

And naturally, one should influence the other; if you are expanding into new territory then it makes good business sense to employ individuals that reflect your client base, who not only speak the language but also understand local business culture and customs to ensure a good experience.

In the same way that cloud computing provides a foundation for remote and flexible working, it is enabling technology when it comes to expanding into international markets. Heightened methods of security such as encryption, multi-factor authentication and role-based access provides peace of mind that sensitive documents, data and files will be protected when residing in the cloud, regardless of where they were uploaded from.

When you consider that from time to time, business travel will be required when pursuing businesses in overseas markets, businesses that operate with a traditional onsite infrastructure feel that hours were lost that could have been leveraged. Local networks and storage drives couldn’t be accessed when offsite, meaning that individuals had to risk saving items to a desktop so they could work and travel simultaneously – this simply doesn’t need to happen with a cloud computing model.

Data analytics

It’s no secret that businesses rely on data analytics to direct strategies and maximise profits, removing guesswork and reducing uncertainty. 

A cloud computing model enables firms of all sizes to analyse huge data sets with ease and efficiency – this information can lead to product and service development, improve marketing targeting and customer experience.

The real-time nature of cloud computing means businesses can become agile and respond immediately to business needs, trends in data as well as anomalies. Being able to undertake predictive and prescriptive analysis allows leaders to quickly apply findings and implement data-driven and evidence-based solutions.

Moving data from all departments including accounts, marketing, sales and HR means you can run concurrent reports and have a holistic view of your business.

By using business intelligence and analytics services, such as Power BI by Microsoft, businesses can access insights that enable leaders to make fast, informed decisions.

The data can be transformed into stunning visuals, and shared with colleagues, across devices. In this visual form, both on-premise and cloud-based data can be shared and analysed in one view. Further to this, customised dashboards and interactive reports can be collaborated on in real-time.

The ability to align departments and react quickly and strategically in all areas will undoubtedly give businesses deeper insight into customer and market behaviour, improve efficiency and therefore, provide an advantage.

Going after innovation

By embracing cloud computing and cloud computing services, time is recouped by IT personnel who are freed up from mundane tasks such as maintenance, updates and security patches, to focus on more innovative, strategic objectives that will add further value to a business.

And there you have it, a brief insight into just some of the ways that cloud computing can accelerate digital transformation and give you significant advantages over your competitors. If you would like to hear more about bespoke advantages that your business could experience, contact us today.

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