Last week a friend asked me if I have any experience with Google Apps as the company she worked for had been experiencing server issues for two days and their IT company was looking to charge them $2000 a month to get it back up and running again, and to maintain it moving forwards. Two days downtime for an entire organisation is obviously an incredible loss of productivity.
I let her know that I have been using Google Apps since 2009 when our company went fully-cloud. For me, it wasn’t about servers going down, and IT companies wanting to charge me a lot of money – we were still quite a small company at the time. For me, going cloud i.e. putting all of our systems onto the internet was actually driven by my lifestyle. As a parent raising two young children and building my business at the same time, I needed to access my systems i.e. account systems, project management systems, operations, CRM, etc, online anytime. It was a good move. I’ve been able to grow the company and bring up a family around it.
Now, it seems everybody is going cloud, and despite all the early reservations and fears about security and so on, most businesses are now realising the benefits tend to outweigh the risk.
So, what is exactly cloud computing and should your business be doing it?
Cloud computing is effectively having systems in the “cloud”. Whilst there is a chance that a system could go down, most quality providers of cloud technology have backup servers syndicated all over the world so that even if one server does goes down, unlike your small server in one office location, they should simply syndicate to another and remain online and open for use.
In effect, cloud computing, although it is called “cloud”, the data does still sit somewhere on a storage server. Some of the biggest servers in the world are operated and owned by Google, Amazon, IBM and others.
So what sorts of systems could your company could look to build cloud on? How do you manage the process?
As mentioned earlier, we have been fully cloud since 2009 and I would highly recommend creating a plan to move your business this way. However, if you are a large organisation, this will equate to considerable change and needs to be carefully planned and implemented.
I would probably suggest you identify your most burning area/issue and going from there. For instance for my friend’s company, the fact that their emails were down for two days, was their biggest issue. Finding a suitable cloud solution for email would therefore be a really good place to start.
If you are having similar issues, I use and highly recommend Google Apps, including Gmail. You can either utilise a free account leveraging a @gmail.com account, masked with your company email. For instance, we send emails from @thecreativecollective.com but we are actually using our free Gmail accounts. Alternatively you can sign up for the paid Google Apps account starting at $5/user/month or $50/user/year and gain additional features and benefits. Whilst it is not particularly difficult to set up, you may prefer to get up and running quickly and this means the support of a professional. We highly recommend the guys over at rype.com.au that operate across Australia.
I couldn’t live without Gmail and I also couldn’t live without Google Calendar which is also online, on our phones and up all the time. We also use Google Docs which is also part of the Apps suite which allows us to collaborate on documents i.e. Word Documents and Spreadsheets so this eliminates vision control, instead of emailing these around.
Other great online systems
I could easily dedicate an entire article to cloud/online account systems but suffice to say there are several worth mentioning. Those I have used for clients I would recommend include xero.com, a company that is taking on the world and happens to hail from my hometown Wellington, New Zealand, which we’ve used since 2009; Fresh Books, which is not as fully equipped for the Australian tax environment, but which offers a number of benefits over Xero including the ability to automate reminders out to clients so that if they have not paid; and Saasu, which is an excellent solution, if you manage inventory and want people to purchase products on your website and for the data to be fed directly into your accounts systems, docking inventory and saving a huge amount on data entry.
Cloud computing is a big topic, but one worth understanding more. If you’d like to know more about cloud computing, you may find it useful to watch this one hour pre-recorded webinar from the Queensland Government which our company developed and delivered in 2011.