There is a great deal of talk in the business world about moving to the 'cloud', whether it's for business email, communications, document storage or collaboration. Research from Microsoft shows 50% of UK SMEs think the cloud is becoming more important for their operation, but for many organisations there is still confusion over what 'the cloud' really means and how they can truly benefit.
What is the business cloud?
Put simply, moving to the cloud involves changing from in-house storage and services to externally hosted services that can be accessed anywhere. Common examples include:
- Moving business email from an in-house server to hosted Microsoft Exchange (or an alternative email platform).
- Moving work documents off a local PC and onto an online storage system, for access via the internet.
If your organisation has moved any internal services online, including email, then you're already taking part in the business cloud.
Why move to the cloud?
Moving in-house services to the cloud brings many benefits to your organisation, helping you work more efficiently, create secure, flexible working conditions and keep control of IT budgets.
Cloud-based services mean you can access and update information instantly, no matter where you are. Because information is stored online colleagues can all access the same details, avoiding the situation of having multiple documents which all need updating individually.
If information is stored on a PC hard disk then you need to be using the office machine to access it. With a business cloud you can provide remote access to information across PCs, mobiles and tablets, allowing employees to work from anywhere at any time.
Business are, quite rightly, concerned that information hosted in the cloud isn't as secure as that hosted inside the business. Both public and private clouds are built with security in mind, with access to information controlled by you. In some ways the cloud is more secure than storing information in-house. For example companies who store documents online don't have to worry about data theft if someone breaks in to their offices.
In-house servers have variable costs (eg when parts need replacing after breaking suddenly). Cloud servers are available on a fixed-cost basis, with no additional charges for replacing equipment, or running-costs.
Hosted Microsoft Exchange in the cloud
The business benefits for moving to the cloud are clear, and Simply Mail Solutions provide a range of hosted Microsoft Exchange cloud services to help your organisation easily switch to a cloud-based infrastructure.
With hosted Microsoft Exchange your email, contacts and calendars are available across desktop, mobiles, tablets and the web. And thanks to cloud syncing you only need to alter details (such as a diary entry) once for the information to update across all your devices.
Microsoft Lync makes it easy to hold group chats and web conferences between employees (and customers) across multiple locations. Those with Lync accounts can join in using the app, and those without Lync can take part in web conferences though their web browser.
Using Microsoft SharePoint for cloud document storage gives you a central home for all your organisation's files and information. Access to files can be controlled at a user by user level, so employees can only access the files you want them to.
The alternative to SharePoint is FutureBox. With FutureBox businesses have a central file storage point for employees, with built-in file syncing, collaboration tools, document editing, and secure sharing options.
The combination of hosted Microsoft cloud services means you can work anywhere. Email, documents, contacts and diary information can be accessed and updated instantly using desktop PCs, mobiles and tablets.
Moving to the business cloud changes the way your business works. Employees are no longer tied to their desks, in a 9 to 5 environment, and you can build flexibility and efficiency into the working day. Organisations can either take cloud services from different providers, a pick-and-mix approach, or use a complete cloud service like Microsoft Office 365.