What exactly is Cloud Computing? At it's core, cloud computing is accessing and storing your information on storage in an external location, rather than locally. In fact, you probably utilize cloud computing on a daily basis without ever thinking about it. Anytime you use social media, watch a video on Netflix, check the balance in your checking account, use online documents such as Google Sheets, or check your email, you're accessing the cloud.
In their 2016 State of the Cloud Survey, Right Scale notes that Cloud adoption is up to nearly 95%. Why has using the cloud become such as normal part of all of our lives? The simple response is that it's better than the alternative. Technology progresses over time and society begins to adopt it. But the cloud in particular has so many benefits over local storage that it seems worthwhile to list them out.
In some cases, much cheaper. Take a look at our analysis of cloud-based mobile forms vs paper forms. The estimated savings per year for a five person field team using custom forms sits right around $12,000. Sure, paper, hard drives, and physical storage may not be that expensive. But when you take into consideration the space needed to store on-site data storage, the administrative costs associated with actually creating the physical storage, and the up-front cost of purchasing materials, Cloud Computing starts to sound a lot more appealing.
When's the last time you hand-delivered a printed out document to a colleague in order for them to mark it up? It could be that you can't quite remember. Perhaps something more recent: when's the last time you emailed someone a document in order for them to mark it up?
Teams have quickly started to realize that working within the cloud is the most efficient use of everyone's time. Being able to view and edit documents in real-time alongside colleagues who aren't physically there has led to increased productivity and quality of work from organizations who have made the jump to cloud-based document sharing. When your whole team can bang out their parts of a spreadsheet simultaneously, the total time cost of projects starts to drop significantly.
With The Cloud, you never have to worry about your iteration of software falling behind your competitors. When your mobile CRM updates as much (and probably more) than your phone updates, there's hardly any need to worry about whether or not your software is out-of-touch. What's even better is that in most cases, Cloud-Based SaaS (Software as a Service) updates without your ever waiting or watching for it to do so. Developers roll out new versions of software regularly, and very little if anything ever needs to change on the user's end in order to use the new and hopefully improved software.
You don't go find your rolodex or phone book when you want to call somebody, you pull out your phone. So why are some people still subjecting themselves to the immovable and unaccommodating nature of on-site storage and physical storage? Initially, the draw of SaaS platforms was that you could access them from any computer with internet access. The same is true today, except there's a computer in your pocket and internet access is everywhere. Business owners and employees alike shouldn't be settling for software that is desktop-only at this point. For many professions, especially those operating remotely or outside of a central location on a regular basis, carrying around a laptop and searching for Wi-fi is unreasonable and frankly, unnecessary.
Ever had a hard-drive fail, a flash drive become corrupted, or have a piece of paper get rip, stained, or lost? We've all been there, and it's not very fun. While cloud-based software is not infallible, most well-known business software, including Repsly, provides an average uptime greater than 99.99%. Want to make sure that a specific service is going to provide you the coverage you need? Check their SLA before purchasing. Most Service Level Agreements clearly state the percentage of uptime users can expect from the provider.
If you're going through a rough patch and need to scale back the amount you spend on physical document storage and maintenance, such as file cabinets, on-site servers, and printers, you're out of luck. By switching to the cloud, businesses can quickly change the amount of service they're paying for to match what they need at that moment. Most cloud-based software offers tiered or incremental pricing plans, so they can shrink or grow with your organization as time goes on.
One of the main complaints we hear from business owners about to switch to Repsly is that they want to focus on the work that really matters, and leave the inconsistencies and headaches of multiple tools and manual processes behind. Filling out paperwork and making sure that the quality of the tools being used is consistent can start to become a pain for employees and managers who just want to do their job. There are thousands of cloud-based solutions that fulfill multiple business needs. Find one that addresses multiple functions of your business and let it handle the grunt work.
While it may not be the first benefit to jump to mind, switching to the cloud from physical storage and on-site equipment eliminates much of the waste and pollution that comes with discarding hard drives, paper, and ink. It may not be the number one reason to switch to the cloud, but caring for the environment has clearly started to matter more for businesses in the 21st century.
Did you save the spreadsheet as .xlsx, .xlsm, or .csv? Is this the first draft or second? Where is the original saved?
Lose these headaches quickly and adopt a system that offers every member of your organization the same copy of a document, with multiple save states. This way you can still go back and edit an older version of your work if a problem arises, but the need for multiples copies, saved in multiple locations,with multiple file formats, is eliminated. Need protections on your work? Most software, anticipating this need, offer a way for managers to put individual protections on documents, keeping your documents and business safe and sound.
Whether or not the actual software you use is easier depends a lot on the solution you've chosen and the adaptability of your team. Almost certainly however, Cloud-based software will be lighter on your hardware. What this means is that instead of going out and buying a desktop tower with an i7 processor, 32 gigs of RAM, and a 1Tb solid-state drive, you can run some of the world's most powerful CRM on your otherwise unremarkable $150 laptop. Since the actual computing is not happening on your device, the hardware doesn't need to meet the requirements it otherwise would. The more powerful servers and computers located at your software provider or a 3rd part provider's facility will handle all of the heavy lifting, leaving you to work in peace on a device of your choosing.
With support staff on hand to provide employees with the help they need, there is no need for an in-house IT department for that area of the company. Most software has an onboarding process in place to teach new users how to navigate and get the most out of their software. Even if such a process isn't available with the software you've chosen, there is likely a support line or live chat to help answer any questions that may arise. If all else fails, user forums and FAQ sections may just have the information you need.
Whether or not your organization feels switching to the cloud is the right move, the rest of the workforce isn't hesitating. According to this inforgraphic from HighFive on Remote Work, as of 2015, roughly 3.3 million people in the U.S. alone worked remotely at least half the time. That number has jumped almost 80% since 2005 and continues to grow. Employees need and expect to be able to access their work from anywhere, and the emerging workforce is likely to look at the flexibility to do so not as a perk, but as a requirement.
While it may be the pipe dream of some, finding one piece of software to do every single thing your business needs done is not yet possible. What you can do by switching to the cloud, is integrate all the SaaS tools you're currently using. Lots of solutions offer open API's that can be connected to software that performs other functions. As software integration has become more important to an organization's bottom-line over the past few years, innovative solutions such as Zapier have popped up, allowing users to automate functions between software.
For example, if your employees in the field collect stock information from retail stores on a regular basis using Repsly, it's entirely possible to create a custom integration that sends those stock numbers to your favorite reporting software in real-time. Integrating locally installed software often requires a custom solution and can cost thousands of dollars With solutions like Zapier, the costs are minimal and the benefits are immediate and immense!
When cloud-computing started to come into vogue, the number one concern for most was how secure off-site data really was. Luckily, most of those concerns have been assuaged now that SaaS companies (for the most part) adhere to strict ISO standards for information security, and are subject to regular security audits. Actual data storage facilities are rarely found in the same location as the software provider. It's far more likely that the actual job of data warehousing is given to an enormous company, such as Amazon Web Services.
Since SaaS is literally software as a service, business owners are free to stop using it at any time. Unless you choose to pay annually and get a discount (something many SaaS companies offer), your subscription will likely be on a month-to-month basis. With this model you simply pay for what you need for as long as you need it. With traditional software, you're buying a license to that software and are forced to purchase a newer version or different software at full price if and when you choose to switch.
When you combine the input of several employees over a long period of time and let powerful computers and algorithms handle it, you can gain insights that would have otherwise passed right beneath your nose, undetected. Processing data no longer means the simple movement of information. It is expected by business owners and managers that software will provide insights on how to improve processes and everyday functions. In some industries, crowd-sourced data can help teach software to find trends in data over a period of time. This allows it to notify organizations about potential issues before they arise, and to point out opportunities that may have otherwise been passed by.
For enterprise-level organizations, "go-live" periods for new on-premise software can take between two and three years to implement. With cloud software, deployment time is cut down significantly--meaning large businesses can implement SaaS solutions completely in just a few quarters, and small businesses can do it even faster, sometimes in as little as a week. By the time on-premise software has fully been implemented, there is a good chance that a new iteration of the same software has already been released, or that the software has become obsolete. Making the jump to the cloud lets business owners and decision makers stay ahead of their competition instead of getting left in the dust.
Cloud-computing isn't only for software. If your organization is hosting in-house software on a cloud provider, you can tap into their resources instead of building out your own. This saves on infrastructure costs significantly, and also helps to reduce server latency when users around the world are trying to reach your service.
With more and more teams working outside of a central location like an office, managers are understandably concerned about the accountability of their employees. cloud-based software lets managers see what is happening in real-time, so you know when an employee has checked in with a client, submitted a document, or logged on for the day. Transparency and accountability are traits that both managers and employees can appreciate, and both are needed to keep a business moving in the right direction.
Outside of the workplace, there are very few on-premise applications the average person uses on a day-to-day basis anymore. Social media, banking, video calls, preparing documents...the list goes on, and they're all done in the cloud. Without any of us really seeing it happen, the cloud has become the norm. With this thought in mind, plenty of SaaS companies have begun to build their user interface using the same principles they would for consumer applications. This means that for the majority of the workforce, SaaS applications are second-nature.
Clearly there are plenty of benefits in making the switch to cloud-based software. Though some will still be hesitant, find comfort in the fact that nearly everyone, from the U.S. government to private multinational companies around the globe, to entrepreneurs working out of their garage have begun to adopt cloud-computing solutions. The results are speaking for themselves, jump into the clouds!
Cam Garrant is the marketing manager at Repsly. Passionate about delivering quality content and data-driven insights, Cam's interests include SEO, basketball, and bad jokes.