15 years ago the only cloud most people had heard of was the one above our heads, relating to weather. Now it seems to be the buzz-word for business systems.
So what exactly is the ‘Cloud’ and how do you know if your business should be on it?
A ‘Cloud’ system simply means ‘online’ not a piece of software loaded onto a computer.
It wasn’t until 2000s that ‘Cloud Computing’ really came into existence. Two of the biggest software heavyweights only recently launched competitively into the ‘Cloud’ space
- 1 March 2011, IBM announced the IBM SmartCloud
- 7 June 2012, Oracle announced the Oracle Cloud
However, in 2006 a little (at the time) New Zealand Company called Xero was launched and supercharged the move of business systems into /onto the cloud. Xero, founded by New Zealander Rod Drury launched the 1st cloud accounting application, which has since gone global. A real Kiwi success story.
Like any popular movement, there are early adopters, bad experiences to learn from and people who stubbornly state, “the cloud is not for me” & “the cloud is just a phase”.
I can honestly say that the cloud is not a phase and if the February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch taught us anything about business systems, it was that those using cloud applications were able to continue working out of new locations with less disruption than those who weren’t. It didn’t matter that their offices were in the Red Zone and they were barred from any access. They were able to log into their systems from laptops & iPads. Some business owners had their staff work from their homes, many using their kitchen tables as desks.
There are many positives to moving your business systems to the cloud. For instance:
- Access from anywhere – You can be totally up to date with what is happening in your business when you’re out of town on a business trip.
- Decision making as things happen – When a major mishap on the production line or an urgent job crops up, you are able to reschedule staff, contractors and equipment from any mobile device.
Accessibility and visibility are key to running the most efficient businesses. So should you move your business to the ‘Cloud’?
What you should be asking is; “what would your cloud look like?” & “how would your cloud work?”
One of the best positives of the ‘Cloud’ is that it is customizable. Historically, businesses invested in a software package that the whole business was forced to use. ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) or Business Management Software would typically suit one function of the business, while it could be quite inappropriate for others. After such a high investment, (upfront licence fees, huge customization costs, high implementation and training fees and ongoing support and maintenance fees), business owners weren’t keen on changing for many years, so staff were stuck with something that was more frustrating than anything else.
With ‘Cloud’ applications a business owner can choose the best software for each role within the business. As long as the systems all talk to each other and the data flows in the right direction, you can now have the best system for your entire business! Another massive positive is that the cost of your customized system has dropped dramatically. Instead of software being a capital expense to the business, it can now be a palpable operating cost and updates and improvements to the software happen automatically.
The ‘Cloud’ keeps getting better but there are SO many options out there, it can be a daunting task just knowing where to start. The best advice I could ever give is to ask for help before you make a choice. If you engage with an impartial advisor, you will get honest advice including the pros and cons of each system. This way you will be able to investigate with out fear of buckling under a Vendor’s hard sell. The only way anyone can help identify which systems are best for your business is if they get to know your business. They need to ask you more questions about your business and the business processes within each role, than stating how a cloud system would suit you.
So ask yourself, what would YOUR cloud look like?