Viewing Cloud Applications in Full Force for BusinessBy Holly Cordner
Cloud applications have changed the way that companies do business, and many of the advantages offered by integrated cloud solutions can be summed up in three words: scalability, mobility, and cost. Cloud applications have done a lot to level the playing field when it comes to competition between large enterprises, and small businesses.
Advantages of Migrating to the Cloud
Since the idea of cloud computing first surfaced a few years ago, cloud applications have only gotten better, and many are indistinguishable from their desktop counterparts. There are a number of benefits to cloud applications, which is why so many businesses are moving, at least in part, to this model.
One of the primary reasons that companies find cloud computing so appealing is because of its portability across systems. Cloud applications generally work the same on Windows, iOS, and Linux systems and can, in many cases, be accessed from mobile devices. This gives business professionals more control over how and when they access applications, and is especially advantageous to companies with remote offices or at-home employees.
Cloud applications allow IT professionals to spend less time on software maintenance. Hosted cloud solutions do not need to be configured or upgraded, and there is no need to back up application data. Many costly and complex administration tasks can be completely eliminated.
Many desktop applications are based on legacy software that focuses on functionality at the expense of usability. Because cloud applications were developed later, they can take advantage of advances in programming and architecture and generally offer a better user experience.
Buying software, upgrades, and support from vendors can be expensive, and some software systems may be beyond the budget of smaller companies. Cloud computing, on the other hand, offers software as a service (SaaS) on a month-by-month plan that is often less expensive than maintaining desktop software. This gives small businesses an opportunity to have access to the same programs as large enterprises.
Many cloud-based applications offer viable API integration with freely available APIs, which is a big weakness of traditional, desktop software.
When companies only have contact with software vendors at best once a year, it can be difficult to get needed support and program fixes. Cloud-based software generally benefits from a vigorous schedule of automatically-deployed upgrades and bug fixes, which means that companies consistently have access to a better-quality product.
The Best Cloud-based Business Applications
Despite some of the existing rhetoric about cloud computing, migrating to the cloud does not have to be an all-or-nothing jump. Many businesses find that they prefer to ease into the cloud a little at a time with well-designed applications that have proven themselves over multiple iterations. There are some business applications that work especially well in the cloud, including the following:
Data backup software is a natural fit for the cloud—with critical business data stored on a server in a completely separate location, businesses are protected from fire, break-ins, hurricanes, and systems failures. Cloud-based backup systems are also generally easy to set up and use, unlike many traditional methods of storing backup data.
Hosted communications software can streamline the communications process between employees, departments, and clients. Integrated tools like Microsoft Lync offer voice over IP, video conferencing, email hosting, and chat.
Office software – As an early entrant into the cloud-based applications market, Google Docs gave businesses the option of creating and storing files on the fly. The model has proven successful, and Microsoft recently launched its own highly-anticipated cloud version of its office suite: Microsoft Office 365.
File sharing in the cloud allows businesses to share critical documents and information in real time. There are a number of different programs that offer this functionality, including the incredibly simple and easy to use Dropbox.
Many companies are starting with “trial” periods where they transition some of their applications to the cloud to see whether the solutions make sense for them. Much of the growth in the cloud computing industry, then, will come from companies that are happy with their trial experiences and want to move further into the cloud.