How the Cloud can help your business
This is what you're missing, if you're not in the Cloud
The Cloud is cheaper, more convenient and gets you access to the same high quality apps and services that your larger competitors use. But if you’re looking for any more reasons to put your critical IT infrastructure online, here are five of our favourites.
1. Smash customer service out of the park
Everyone talks about putting the customer first. But it’s not easy. The time and attention it takes to deliver your core business is a strict mistress, and finding the time or resource to give customers the best possible experience of your brand is a constant battle.
But the right cloud app can knit customer experience into everyone’s daily routine.
Be a ‘friendly’
CRM services (the acronym stands for ‘Customer Relationship Management’) give you the power to truly know your customers. When they drop by or call up, anyone in your team can quickly retrieve their details, glance through their purchase history and start the right conversation – without the annoying questions. And we all know that people who remember us feel like those friendlies we’d rather do business with.
Of course, CRM systems are also available offline. But very few organisations – including the corporate sector – still prefer the old school model. The benefits of cloud have democratised CRM and made it accessible to all.
Perfect for: Anyone with lots of customers rather than a handful clients they know very well.
2. Throw a ring of steel around your crown jewels
There’s a core of information you keep in your business that you need to protect more than any other asset. Personal data about your customers and employees is subject to Data Protection laws. Meanwhile, you also need to fiercely guard any intellectual property you believe gives you a competitive advantage. But any hack into your system isn’t going to be helpful – being compromised digitally is always a stressful experience.
So do you need to stock up on servers to store the data and expensive security systems to keep them safe?
To infinity and beyond
Maybe not. The cloud offers practically limitless storage. And, if you choose the right package, you can benefit from enterprise-level data security, without the consultancy, purchase, install and maintenance costs.
Patches and updates will likely be applied as soon as they’re released and, in the much less likely event that you are compromised, there can be little doubt that you took all reasonable measures to prevent this from happening.
If you transfer all of your critical and sensitive data to the cloud, you might be able to be a little more open elsewhere. There’s less intrusion threat from offering guest wifi if your internal network doesn’t directly store your customer database and employee records. Of course, security procedures need to be tight, engage in best-practice everywhere. But moving data storage and its security to the cloud can be cheaper, more effective and give you greater flexibility.
Perfect for: All businesses, particularly those with a lot of sensitive data they need to protect.
3. Collaborate - anytime, any place, anywhere
So, it’s the weekend. All of your data is locked away in your shop, factory, warehouse or office. You’ve got a big presentation for a potential investor and customer on Monday morning. You’re already working with the MD via email, honing it to perfection. But there’s a key piece of data you’re both missing.
Time to get in the car and lose precious hours of relaxation. Or, you could move to the cloud.
Don’t underestimate the impact
Not only is your data accessible anytime, anywhere once you’re cloud-based, but there are lots of specific apps and productivity tools to help you collaborate more effectively. For starters, the deck you’re working on could be managed in an app allowing you to improve the slides in real-time while you’re on a video conference together, while the app applies version control so nothing is lost in the process.
This is a very specific example. But whatever it is you do, there’s almost certainly a better way to collaborate with your team using cloud services. Because cloud makes location irrelevant. You can be as productive at a trade show in the South of France as you can in the office.
The implications are economy-wide in scale and we’re only just discovering all the benefits. The large yet immediate productivity and efficiency gains are obvious. But as physical location stops being a barrier to accessing data, tools and colleagues it means you can hire the best people for the job, regardless of where they live. In fact, location is now becoming less of an issue for many startups, who are basing themselves where property prices are cheaper, the quality of life is higher and then collaborating with whoever they need to, wherever they might be that day. Digital is delivering some very meaningful freedoms.
Perfect for: Every business or freelancer that needs to collaborate with colleagues, customers or suppliers. So yes, everyone in business.
4. Get the dull stuff done with less effort
You probably didn’t get in to business to do admin. But invoicing, accounts, scheduling and payroll is, at least before you grow to a significant size, a big part of what you or your core team need to do.
And that’s leaving you less time to focus on the aspects of the business you fell in love with.
Cloud can help relieve the pain
Making general business admin easier and quicker is now a business model itself. Which is why there’s been a proliferation of services in the cloud. Not only have cloud apps made complex tasks like book keeping easier but it’s had the knock-on effect that the to-do list is now quicker to race through.
And these benefits are relevant whatever the size or type of business you run.
For instance, skilled tradespeople such as builders, gardeners and fitness instructors who work outside their home now have all their data at their fingertips constantly. Useful if you remember you need to send out that invoice – or book an appointment. You can do the admin even when on top of some scaffolding, mopping up a spill, or running across the park.
And, as you grow, your new colleagues will be able to do the same.
Perfect for: Any business that believes more efficient admin is a boon.
5. Make even better decisions
Cloud systems are also great at getting you better information. And with better information you make better decisions. And that means more profit with fewer mistakes and less effort.
Unlike old school desktop applications, cloud apps are often based around dashboards – quick overviews of the most essential information. But click and you can often segment and look at your data in new and interesting ways – finding new insight into what’s driving success (or failure) in your business.
Get data flowing around your business
This is, in part, possible because cloud systems have been developed to integrate with each other easily. Once upon a time all of your data was locked in a walled garden on a single machine in your office, bounded by the application it was loaded into.
But once in the cloud, your data can be freed from those constraints. Many applications can talk to many other applications – so you can see all of the metrics in your business in many places. And this is done securely, without cost to you.
For instance, by using a cloud payment system, high street and online retailers such can flow the revenue records straight into their accountancy app. So you instantly get a view of when you’re most profitable – perhaps suggesting which lines to merchandise most prominently at different times of day. With joined-up data the potential becomes almost limitless. Even the largest of organisations could only have dreamed of this a few years ago. In fact, cloud-based integrations have made entirely new business models possible. You just can’t do things like same day delivery for your customers if your payment, stock, customer data and logistics apps don’t all talk to each other in real time.