The benefits of cloud technology are manifold, as firms are finding, writes Karla Dondio.
There has been a lot of buzz around cloud technology for some time, with more and more businesses getting on board. With a reputation for revolutionising the internet, exactly how are companies benefiting from its applications?
Cloud technology uses a network of computers to give users fast and ubiquitous access to software and data in real time. This means businesses using cloud applications have the ability to collaborate online with stakeholders at any time.
Derek Carroll, from creative branding agency Truly Deeply, uses cloud applications on a day-to-day basis in his role as creative director. Carroll likes the idea that cloud applications allow you "to pick and choose [the services] you want according to your business model and your clients".
A quick rundown of some of the cloud services he uses demonstrates their extensive capabilities: Google Business for email, calendaring and contact management; Harvest for time management and estimations; Basecamp for project management; Highrise for new business management; CrashPlan for file back up; Dropbox for file sharing; and Mailchimp for electronic newsletters.
"The key benefit in utilising these solutions is the access and the simplicity. They do what they do very well and they don't pretend to be everything to everyone."
Another advantage of using cloud applications is that businesses can manage projects online and therefore provide access to external stakeholders. For example, project-management tools enable clients to log in so they can stay abreast of project milestones, as well as offer feedback.
"They assist us in making the communication with the client easier. You spend less time fretting about getting this to work and you can focus on where the real game is, which is the client relationship."
For new businesses, the opportunity to work remotely by integrating cloud applications has revolutionised workplace practices.
Michael Raoss, who has worked in the creative industry for more than two decades, is account director at Plural, a boutique design agency. Plural plans to establish a studio space for the business in the near future, however cloud services have enabled Raoss, the designer and the programmer to all work remotely in the interim. Without cloud technology, Raoss insists that it would have been impossible for them to operate. It has also offered a huge cost saving to the business, with low overheads and no infrastructure costs.
"By far the biggest benefit is that most of our data is stored on multiple servers backed up to a cloud device. It also saves a huge amount of money for us as most of the software we lease costs about $100 a month," he says.
Raoss uses a range of cloud applications in his workday: Harvest, Xero, Trello and Dropbox. He says he can keep track of every aspect of the business in one desktop window.
"My designer and programmer tend to work late hours, so as soon as I start at 8am, I can see where everything is at. It's instant."
Raoss doesn't see any drawbacks to using cloud applications other than getting to know your way around them, which he says isn't that difficult.
Carroll believes the applications can be limiting if you want more from them than they offer, but he adds that if something is free, businesses tend to put up with a few niggles.
So is cloud technology the way of the future?
"We love it and reap the benefits of it as a business," Carroll says. "But it's not going to change the essential fact that what we do as a business is relationships. I still have to do that one-on-one sitting down talking with someone."