You cannot read a magazine or watch a football game without hearing about the cloud. If you are reading this than you probably already know something about what the cloud is, but here are the basics. Cloud computing means shifting the data storage, and much of the computing burden, away from your local device and onto powerful groups of computers connected to the Internet with super-fast connections. Instead of running an application on your laptop for example, you would merely be accessing that application through the Internet as it runs in the cloud.
For small businesses, the first step into the cloud is usually offsite data backup. Here’s hoping you are already doing this, as it is a critical step toward insuring your business will survive a disaster. The next step most businesses take is to shift the burden of the office’s productivity applications into the cloud. Microsoft Office has been the de facto standard for so long that most small businesses are choosing Microsoft Office 365 as their first suite of cloud applications. Office 365 represents the logical migration onto the cloud. It allows the users to feel comfortable with the applications while maintaining compatibility.
Switching to Office 365 presents some distinct advantages for small businesses.
Cost: At the top of the list is usually the bottom line. There isn’t a question about ‘if’ you will upgrade, only ‘when.’ The decision then comes down to running Office locally, in the traditional way, or using Office 365 and the cloud. Typically, Office has about a three year lifespan that you will have to purchase a license for, provide hardware to run it on, provide power and cooling for that hardware, and you have to invest time, money, or both. Office 365 is a subscription with a monthly cost that is predictable and consistent and easy to budget.
Maintenance: We covered all the headaches involved with running Office locally on your own servers. With Office 365, Microsoft themselves manage the software. Every patch, update, or minor improvement is handled instantly without any input from you and without interrupting your usage. The cloud servers are also maintained, secured, and mirrored, far beyond what is possible at the local level.
Accessibility: Now we’re talking about function. Because Office 365 lives in the cloud all of your Office applications are accessible, anytime, anywhere, and from practically any device. All you need is an Internet connection. You can literally borrow someone’s iPad at a coffee shop and access that Power Point presentation you forgot about.
Synchronization: For travelers this is a boon. All of your folders, email, contacts, calendars, and application saves are synced with the cloud. This means everyone on a project can use the same data and the changes to that data are updated in near real time for everyone. It also means that leaving your laptop in the cab does not cost you a night’s worth of work.
Office 365 is as good as it sounds and GeekTek provides the small business IT support services you need to make the switch. If you are not a fan of Microsoft Office but like the ideas presented here, consider Google Apps for Business. Contact GeekTek for some expert advice on what is right for your business today.