The cloud is here to stay. What makes it so enticing?
We all love having the latest, newest and best technology but there’s one small problem: whatever you buy today will be obsolete tomorrow. And with technology’s accelerating rate of change, ‘tomorrow’ comes faster and faster every year.
That’s why ‘as a service’ (aaS) software (and even hardware) offerings are gaining in popularity. More broadly, it’s also why leasing is oftentimes a better option than owning. The costs come out of our operating expenses (OpEx) budget, not capital expenses (CapEx), for faster tax deductions and an end to complicated depreciation calculations.
They also allow you to outsource expertise, specifically technical support. Most services – the most common which include email, accounting, software and backups – different levels of support so you can tailor a package to your requirements.
“An accounting file on a server or desktop is difficult to access by anyone who is not in front of the computer,” says Sholto Macpherson, editor of Digital First, a website dedicated to accounting technology. “Once it is in the cloud, a company can share it with external accountants, auditors, company directors and senior management.”
That’s why cloud accounting software packages, like MYOB, QuickBooks and Xero are becoming popular. Featuring strong encryption; key functionalities like accounts payable and receivable, payroll, purchase orders and invoicing; tax management; the ability to ingest bank account data; integration with numerous productivity, job-tracking and other apps; and a range of access and security controls, they’re always innovating and competing for your business.
Macpherson couldn’t agree more: “Accounting software in the cloud can plug into many sources of data, such as e-commerce platforms, inventory and warehouse management, analytics and CRM software. Software developers are prioritising online software, so the cloud then becomes the best source of innovation.”
Email was one of the first cloud-based functions to see widespread adoption (Gmail, anyone?) and it’s only become more sophisticated as time has gone by.
In fact, hosting your email in the cloud is as close to a no-brainer as it gets. Cost savings are one reason: for example, TD Bank (Canada’s second-largest bank), estimates it has cut its costs per employee inbox by 50 percent since moving email to the cloud.
But that’s just the start. When the US government’s CIO told agencies to identify at least three legacy systems to move to the cloud, many chose email. Their reasons included cost savings and the potential to:
- provide more reliable services
- upgrade faster
- offer new collaboration capabilities
Modern cloud-based email services also offer features like advanced security (e.g. encryption, two-factor authentication, spam filtering), guaranteed uptime, the ability to operate offline and download archives; secure backup; and integration with other apps and services.
Software as a service (SaaS) means lower initial costs – no more buying expensive software packages and worrying about getting the best licencing deal or having licences that you’ve paid for sitting around being unused. You simply sign up and pay for your software on a consumption basis.
Your provider will manage updates and upgrades for you, removing the need for patch management and security fixes. And in some cases you might even want to look at PC or workplace as a service (PCaaS and WaaS) as a way to roll up new hardware and refreshes into a single package.
Cloud backup avoids a common problem in backup infrastructure: adding storage in the primary environment but not matching it with additional capacity to match it in the backup environment. With cloud backup, you pay only for what you need – so as you add storage in the primary environment, your cloud service scales to match it.
Your costs will come down because you’re not paying for infrastructure, such as data centres, and your vendor probably has complementary services like replication, redundancy and disaster recovery. So it won’t just save you money – backing up your data on the cloud just might save your business.
It’s easy to see that the cloud is here to stay and, in many cases, its value proposition is irresistible. Many small and medium businesses are already entirely cloud-based and while larger businesses may prefer or need to keep some data and functions in-house (for regulatory, competitive or other reasons), it’s not hard to see a future where the vast majority of business data and transactions are located in a data centre far, far away.