As your business grows, you’ll find that making do with spreadsheets and home grown databases start to cost you time and money. Rather than helping your business grow, they end up holding you back. Information is hard to get at, manual forms get missed or mislaid, to-do lists get out of control and even the simple stuff takes way too much time.
It’s time to turn to the latest technology to give you a helping hand. But, when you come to evaluate business applications, should you stick with in-house software packages, or choose the Cloud?
Sometimes known as SaaS (Software as a Service) or web-native, modern Cloud business solutions are fast taking over in key areas, such as marketing, accounting, team collaboration and human resources management – offering much more than just the convenience of online accessibility.
Here are five reasons to trust business applications to the Cloud:
- Cloud business solutions are now mainstream
It’s nearly twenty years since the first Cloud solutions were launched. Salesforce, the company widely recognised as the pioneer in this space, was founded in 1999, went public in 2004 and in February 2017 announced full year revenue of $8.39 billion. Not bad for a company that started with just a handful of people and a vision to change the way that business software is delivered.
In the last decade, software vendors, old and new, have flocked to embrace this new approach. There’s been plenty of time for software developers to learn what it takes to deliver effective Cloud solutions – and to iron out the issues that may have held businesses back in the past.
Today’s Cloud solutions are usually as functionally complete and configurable as the previous generation of in-house tools. That’s not to say you shouldn’t still check that the software does what you need it to – or do due diligence on issues like performance, security or where your data is hosted. But, you no longer need to worry that you won’t find a system that’s as complete as older in-house alternatives.
- Cloud solutions save time (and money)
With in-house solutions, setting up and managing the IT infrastructure needed to keep your business running efficiently can take up way too much time.
As Cloud software is hosted online, you don’t need to buy hardware, install software, set up firewalls, schedule backups or find time to apply the latest updates and security patches. Your supplier should take care of all that for you. Once set up, Cloud business solutions pretty much look after themselves. All you need is access to the internet, an up-to-date web browser and a modern device: PC, Mac, laptop, tablet or smart phone.
Since the software is already installed in the Cloud, ROI is normally much faster too. Most suppliers can provide you with your own “instance” of the software almost instantaneously – and then work with you to configure it to fit around your way of working. A system that may have taken many months to implement in the past, can often be up and running, and configured around your processes in a few days or weeks.
- Cloud solutions will grow with you
As your business grows – and changes – staying agile and flexible is key. The most up-to-date Cloud solutions have been developed to take advantage of the cost-efficient scalability of modern Cloud computing environments. As you place more demands on the system, the background infrastructure automatically calls up more resources. It’s a bit like pay-as-you-go phone services. You have immediate access to enormous computing power as and when you need it, rather than having to pay for it when you don’t.
Modern Cloud solutions have another advantage too. Thanks to what’s known as multi-tenanted architecture, development is considerably easier and faster than in the past. Most suppliers will seamlessly update your software with new features for free, and on a regular basis. This is especially true with HR software, where many of the newer solutions are expanding rapidly, not only to serve their existing clients better, but also to add features that growing organisations value. These range from more extensive configuration and workflow options, to support for advanced HR processes such as recruitment and talent management, or succession planning.
- Cloud solutions are more secure
One of the more persistent myths is the that data stored in the Cloud is less secure than if kept on computers in house. The reality is that Cloud-hosted solutions are generally more secure because; a) the hosting companies can’t afford to have their systems compromised, so constantly validate and update their security tools and processes and b) software vendors have for the most part adopted best practice too.
According to research, the majority of data breaches are down to human error, with phishing attacks (where employees are tricked into giving away passwords or information), rising steeply. So, while software security is important, it’s even more vital to ensure that employees are educated about security issues – and on the lookout for anything suspicious.
- Cloud solutions help you focus on growing your business
Growing businesses need loyal, profitable clients, and productive, engaged employees. What owners and managers don’t need is to tie themselves up in the endless (but essential) administrative tasks or manual processes that come with running a business.
Cloud solutions can help you streamline every-day admin from tracking sales opportunities and client communications, to staying in touch with employees – and on top of absences. With 24/7 access from virtually any device, Cloud solutions ensure that information is always available, and processes streamlined. You’ll find it easier to keep your finger on the pulse of your business; and everyone on can work together more productively.
Where to start your search
When it comes to selecting the best solutions for your business, here are the top three places to look:
- Talk to others in a similar business to your own. They’ll be able to share their experience – good and bad – of selecting and working with different business solutions and suppliers.
- Visit review sites: a host of websites have sprung up that include profiles of many of the leading suppliers together with client reviews. The reviews will be independent, but the sites make their money out of “selling” click trough’s to the vendor sites, you may not find every vendor listed on them.
Ask questions via social: interest groups on LinkedIn and other networking sites can be a great source of information, and candid experiences.
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