It’s not that often that a major cultural change sweeps the world of business, but the rapid rise of cloud computing is just that type of change. It doesn’t seem long ago that businesses had large amounts of hardware to run their computer operations, with the likes of servers and desktop computers installed and cabled. For many companies, those hardware requisites may remain for some time, but they can be expensive to maintain and replace, let alone upgrading the software required to run the appropriate programs. Many businesses, especially in the hi-tech sector where small startups emerge on a regular basis, are investigating or adopting cloud technology to streamline and run their operations.
Working in the cloudThe cloud is simply the term used when data and information is stored and managed through the internet instead of it being dealt with locally on a computer’s hard drive or additional storage units. Managers and other employees can get direct access to the data they want and analyze important patterns. Most usefully, they are not bound to a desk because the cloud can be accessed anywhere that has a Wi-Fi or wired internet connection. This allows employees and bosses to use their portable devices – laptops, tablets, smartphones – to get the information they need wherever they are and at any time. Cloud services are operated by providers who charge rental fees depending on the level of services required. Security is high to prevent any loss of sensitive or other commercial information, and for many businesses using the cloud, there can be significant savings on IT capital costs and on premises.
Cloud web toolsOne of the most useful tools available is cloud ERP, a development of the original enterprise resource planning business software that many companies have adopted over the years. Essentially, ERP helps businesses streamline their operations by collecting data across all departments into a central database. Through the cloud, managers and others can get a real-time overview of how each section is performing and, where necessary, deal quickly with any emerging problems.Take the accounting department, for example. Instead of invoices being paper-based and laboriously inputted into systems, ERP software pulls everything together, making financial reporting and reconciling fast and easy, freeing up staff time to concentrate on other areas.
The sales department needs to manage its inventory effectively so that it isaware of stock levels and can satisfy customer questions about product availability, delivery and other issues. By pulling everything together, ERP allows staff to have up-to-the-minute information on all these areas, helping toincrease customer satisfaction and sales. Other tools include the Windows Azure Platform Management Portal that provides access to management tasks and service deployment, and CA Application Performance Management that lets a business monitor and analyze transactions throughout the IT environment and report on them. Issues can be identified quickly and solutions put in place. Cloud computing is very much a brave new world for many companies, but it won’t go away. Now may be the time to embrace the new technology.