If you are still struggling to grasp what exactly the cloud is and why it will completely change your business, here’s a simple explanation.

If you’ve ever experienced the mind-numbing panic that comes with being unable to access important business documents stored on your laptop – perhaps your PC was stolen or damaged – then you’re already halfway to understanding the importance of the cloud.

In truth, the concept of cloud is much easier to grasp than you might think. Instead of storing your programmes, documents and data on your computer’s hard drive, you’re storing them on the internet. That’s it.

Looking at the benefits of the cloud, it’s easy to see why it has quickly become an invaluable tool for businesses, large or small.

It’s safer in the cloud
While there was initially confusion around cloud safety, the reality is that your data is more secure when it’s stored in the cloud than it is sitting on your hard drive. Think about the example of the missing laptop – if your company data is stored in the cloud, you can continue to access it, with or without that laptop, because you can access the internet from anywhere on any computer.  

In terms of the security of the cloud itself, established service providers like Microsoft have a wealth of resources at their disposal to ensure their cloud platforms remain safe. They can spend more money that people, small or large companies, and sometimes even governments can. In fact, Microsoft invests more than a billion dollars each year on security-related research and development.   

To understand the positive impact cloud can have on business, let’s look at South Africa’s Gauteng Provincial Legislature’s (GPL) recent migration to the cloud. In 2015, auditors warned the GPL that its lack of reliability and security in its technology was a serious problem, leaving it exposed to potential loss of data. At the time, the legislature was working off old technology, making it difficult to accurately update and protect its assets.

To address the situation, the GPL made the decision to adopt Microsoft’s cloud platform, Azure. Through Azure’s cloud database service, the Legislature ensured all of its data was backed up, improving its governance and compliance controls.   

All-round cost saving
Because you don’t have the expense of setting up an actual physical server to store your data, operating in the cloud can save you costs.  The best part is that you only pay for what you need. For example, Azure pricing is based on the service you use and storage you need, and is calculated as a per-hour fee.

Companies that have already made a significant investment in on-premises infrastructure can also choose to adopt a hybrid cloud strategy. This allows businesses to store some of their data and software on a shared public cloud infrastructure while still making use of their own existing servers.

There are also operational savings to be made, as in the example of the GPL, where the Legislature was able to cut down on thousands of annual software payments, such as those non-Microsoft packages used for security and operations management. Thanks to these savings, the GPL expects to save at least one million Rand over the next three years.

You’ll work smarter
What is particularly powerful about a cloud platform like Microsoft is that it can think for you. Not only is it able to store your data and draw insights from that data, but it can also help you foresee future problems and find ways of addressing them before they even occur.

The very nature of cloud also enables greater operational efficiency. For example, if you have multiple people needing to work on the same document, it can be difficult to keep track of which version is the latest and who made which changes. With the cloud, all documents are saved centrally, enabling you to work smarter. Similarly, team members can collaborate from remote locations as they are able to access, edit and share documents from anywhere.

The GPL found this element of cloud capability to be a significant advantage. Through OneDrive, the Legislature has been able to promote great information sharing and increased staff engagement, while cutting down on use of paper.

Grow your business with ease
Most businesses absorb the cost of computing resources, such as additional servers and software licences, which are on reserve in anticipation of future growth. However, cloud solutions are scalable – this means you can increase your resource capacity as and when you need it.

For this very reason, the GPL has goals of moving completely onto the cloud, removing the cost of having its own data centre on site. The Legislature says its journey to date has been well worth it, providing a solid foundation from which it can keep on modernising and optimising operations.  

There are many ways in which cloud can help your business. Taking the leap to transform your business can be scary but once you make the move, you’ll probably wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.