Michael Goodenough| Forbes
Cloud computing technologies are ubiquitous. While not exactly new technologies, the speed with which they’re transforming business models and efficiencies seem to have accelerated over the past few years. The reason for the transformation depends on how the business operates and its specific needs, but there are some major trends that have emerged.
It All Started with Employees
Employees are one of the main driving forces behind many changes related to cloud computing within the business environment. Employees have families, want to work from home or even use devices with which they are most comfortable. Cloud computing has made it easier for remote employees to enjoy all of the benefits of working in an office (collaboration, Hosted Exchange email, access to documents, etc.) while they are working from home or even on the road.
While Yahoo YHOO -2.82%’s Marissa Mayer may have made the directive for employees to come into the office, most businesses, on the other hand, are seeing the benefits of allowing their employees to work remotely, namely that those employees are more productive. They’re more efficient and willing to work longer hours because they have the privilege and flexibility of working remotely.
For employees that do decide to come into the office, many want to bring their own devices because they prefer or are more familiar with them. Cloud computing is also accelerating the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend, allowing employees to virtually “dial into” their corporate systems with their own computers or tablets Cloud computing gives employees these freedoms without IT having to worry about these different machines or the remote access overloading and crashing their on-site infrastructure.
Shaking Up Your Standard Business/IT Model
Speaking of IT, cloud computing has unburdened businesses from the traditional IT business model, giving them more options when it comes to their IT infrastructure. In the past, the business/IT model was very straightforward: Businesses hired IT professionals to run their computer hardware and software. The IT staff had to forecast business needs as far out as 5 or 10 years, and make purchases accordingly.
The problem with this business/IT model was that oftentimes the forecasts were wrong. We’ve all heard horror stories of IT forecasting. For example, IT may forecast that a business will only need a certain amount of data storage for the next five years and only purchase the forecasted amount, without considering growth, more personnel or even just more demand on the system. Then after only a year, IT realizes that they’re on the verge of running out of storage and need to purchase more.
With cloud computing, you never have to worry about running out of storage or server capacity, resulting in major cost savings. While you still need to forecast the amount of storage or server capacity that you may need, you no longer have to be overly concerned about the capital expense of scaling up your needs if you do require more space or capacity. It’s far less expensive and less of a hassle to increase cloud storage and cloud server needs than on-site infrastructure. You still need IT for many functions, but cloud computing may actually result in less of a need for a full-blown IT staff. You’ll be outsourcing most of your activity to a cloud vendor. While your IT staff may not be as robust in the past, they’re still necessary for business innovation. With standard maintenance and upgrades off of their plate, IT professionals can find time to create new technologies and products for your company. Take the Toyota example.
Toyota Has Seen the Impact of Using Cloud Applications
In a recent article by Julie Bort “To Understand Just How Much the Cloud Will Change the World, Look at Toyota” on Business Insider, she profiled Zack Hicks, Toyota’s CIO, North America. Hicks has been leading the efforts at Toyota to embrace cloud computing, including moving his entire team to Microsoft MSFT +0.72% Office 365, which includes Hosted Exchange Email and Microsoft Office, and a number of other cloud applications to improve productivity. The real advantage of using this type of software is that the team no longer has to worry about day-to-day maintenance of software, including verifying that everyone is using the same version of email.
These cloud applications have allowed Toyota to streamline their business, providing their IT teams with more flexibility to actually create new technologies for their cars. Hicks sees cars as the next type of connected platform with a whole range of technologies to help people in their day-to-day lives, including:
- Semi-autonomous vehicles that can help the elderly get around
- Steering wheels that “can measure your heartbeat, respiration, blood-sugar levels, and send it to a doctor”
- Cars that can send an alert if a driver’s health condition has become unsafe and needs medical help
Your Customers Demand that You Change
Another way that cloud computing has changed business models is in the way that you interact with customers. It gives you the flexibility to immediately react to customer needs as soon as the customer wants you to. Customers no longer wait for business hours to shop for products or get the services that they need. They expect it 24/7. Plus, they want a more robust experience that often means websites with videos, tools and interactive presentations. Most medium to small businesses don’t have the internal bandwidth to host these interactive files.
Outsourcing your interactive data to a cloud vendor ensures that you have enough capacity to not only store these files, but guarantee that customers can download or view the files at higher speeds from a secure cloud computing platform.