It seems like everywhere you look today, software is “in the cloud” or “cloud-based”. But what is the “cloud” and why is it important?
The “cloud” is a term used to describe a service where software and data are kept on remote servers in a datacenter. If that was all there was to it, there would be little reason for the buzz around it. Software and data have been kept on servers in datacenters for more than a decade. Where the cloud distinguishes itself is in how the datacenter increases or decreases the number of computers (or storage) that are allocated to the software based on demand. These datacenters monitor the load than applications are putting on the servers and adds or removes servers, as needed, to keep the application responsive for customers. It also means that companies that host their applications or data with cloud providers only pay for the hardware that they use.
This is a big reason why the cloud is an important concept. Costs are saved by only paying for what your application needs and you can add hardware nearly instantly to handle unforeseen spikes. This saves you money by not requiring you to buy and manage more hardware (which is becoming more and more complex). This then saves money on equipment and personnel costs.
Furthermore, cloud service providers often have extensive back-up and replication mechanisms to handle problems. Many providers utilize multiple, geographically separate datacenters to better serve customers in case of outages. This makes critical business applications and documents more available and safe then ever before.
In addition to saving equipment and personnel costs by not having to own or operate the hardware, employees see improved efficiencies. By using cloud-based business solutions, employees can usually access business documents from anywhere on the Internet. This allows for more people to work from more places. It also implies that employees can access the same documents simultaneously.
Collaboration is another popular, growing term in business today. The move to cloud-based software and services makes collaboration easier by effectively centralizing documents. Multiple workers can read, and many times, modify documents simultaneously. This is more efficient than passing Word documents back and forth over email. Sure, Word has support for change tracking, but it’s still very easy to get confusing or conflicting edits with them if multiple people are editing different copies at the same time.
Many cloud-based document management systems have these capabilities built-in and because people are not editing copies, the changes are much more manageable. This can obviously decrease turn-around time over emailing revisions back and forth. If you’ve ever used Google’s Docs applications, they have a similar feature, but are more generic than most document management systems.
Lastly, by utilizing a cloud-based document management system, you have the ability to improve business intelligence and analytics. This is due to features of document management systems and how they can employ cloud infrastructure. Document management systems effectively centralize files and documents along with necessary metadata. All of these data can then be analyzed constantly, or on-demand using cloud-computing resources (scaling up the necessary computing resources as needed). Improving business intelligence and analytics can help you find further cost savings and inefficiencies.
Given all of the advantages of cloud-based document management systems and business solutions, it’s difficult to argue against using them.