Top 5 benefits of moving to cloud applications

[date-stamp]Cloud computing has been around for quite some time now, and cloud-based applications are seeing a tremendous growth at the expense of on-site applications. The rationale behind this shift has been examined from several angles, both from a technical perspective and a business perspective. The book Cloudonomics by Joe Weinman looks at the business perspective, and the main theme of the book is that all companies will benefit from some form of cloud computing. Not necessarily moving all infrastructure to the cloud immediately, but in the long run the author concludes there's little room for doubt that the cloud will be central in the IT strategy for most companies.  But in addition to purely economic reasons, there are also technical reasons for moving to the cloud. Let's take a look at both.

There are still a lot of companies that have not tapped into the wealth of cloud applications, and let's take a look at what they're missing out on - here are the top five benefits of moving to cloud applications.

 

1 - Interoperability between cloud applications

Do you have a calendar in both your email system and CRM system? Want to have one calendar, or a new application that displays all information from all of your calendars? This is possible with applications that are extendable and are able to talk with other applications. Now, why is this applicable for cloud applications? Cloud applications have one characteristic which makes people love them, and that's the fact that most of them are very geared towards integration with other applications. Some have their own marketplaces with extensions and plugins, while 95+ % of cloud applications have an API that allows extensions to be made. In order to stay competitive and ahead of their competitors, cloud applications must fulfil customers' expectations; and for cloud applications, customers expect them to be open and customizable. If they're not, they're dumped and need to reorient to stay competitive.

Since it is easy to start using cloud applications, it is also easy to find and start using a competing cloud application if the one you've started with does not meet your needs. And chances are that there's a better one somewhere. Such a competitive landscape, where there's little 'lock-in' in multiple year contracts and such, shopping around like this is possible and fully normal. After a market has been like that for a while, the remaining cloud application vendors fulfil their customers’ demands when it comes to (among other things) interoperability. A good example of a cloud application with their own marketplace is Zendesk, a customer support platform.

 

2 - Always-available services

A connection to the internet-that's all you need. This means that an employee can work from anywhere, given there's an internet connection. This gives increased flexibility to your colleagues and employees; they can work when they're most productive and on their own schedule. Less time is lost to commuting as well. A study by GetVoIP shows that 53% of tech workers are willing to accept a pay cut in order to telecommute, so this is something employees are really keen on doing. Certain companies (like Yahoo last year) have moved to restrict telecommuting, but that's a dead end. People want flexibility, not to be locked-up in their offices from 8Am to -5PM.

Many companies have embraced this way of working and having the necessary tools to support this way of working is vital.

 

3 - Security

In December 2013, 840.000 subscribers of a health insurance company in Newark had to be notified their personal information had been stolen when a pair of laptops were stolen from the company headquarters.  And that's just because two (2) laptops were stolen. Why do companies store sensitive data locally on a laptop? I don't get it. Company data should be securely stored in one location, and not be allowed to be replicated onto a local laptop. One way to achieve this is to use cloud applications; data is then stored in a central, safe place and not scattered around.

Another thing is that when a laptop is stolen, anything stored locally on that laptop is lost. If there was something unique on there that was not stored anywhere else, that is irrevocably lost. Using cloud applications, data is never stored locally; it is stored in the cloud. With the abundance of cloud-based storage applications (like Dropbox, SkyDrive/OneDrive, Box, Google Drive, ++) losing documents should really be a thing of the past.

 

4 - Scale on demand

Let's say you're running a website on your own servers. You have a set of three powerful servers, and are pretty confident this is enough to meet demand in the foreseeable future. You run a company website and blog on these machines, and the load has been on average low. With that infrastructure in place, you move on to other things and scaling to meet future demand is not a topic. Then the number of customers of your company goes through the roof, and both the company website and the blog starts to see some heavy traffic. Page loading times are starting to go up drastically and the server farm is at times heavily overloaded. I say "at times" intentionally, because it is only during the day it is overloaded-at night, it’s coping with demand just nicely.

Given the scenario above, moving this website to the cloud makes a lot of sense: Use (and pay) only for the number of machines you need at any time. During the daytime, use autoscaling, which automatically spins up more machines when page load times is starting to go up due to higher demand. At night, autoscaling takes down the machines again (leaving only one). Agreed, it is possible to do this on your own machines as well (not using a cloud computing provider), but then you need to buy enough hardware to handle the highest peaks of traffic to the company website and blog. And what if the peak traffic keeps increasing? Using cloud computing, you can ramp up performance by increasing the number and size of machines powering your website in just a couple of minutes; compared to several days of delivery time for new physical servers.

 

5 - Always updated software

On average, a company spends days installing software patches and updates in a year. Installing patches and upgrading your SharePoint server to a newer version normally involves taking it offline for a while when the server is rebooting. This can be done at night and no-one notices anything, or the patching and upgrading can end up breaking an integration with a 3rd party application and everyone notices. Plus you need staff to do this at night, which costs money.

Enter Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), where the software maker normally has the responsibility for keeping it up-to-date with patches and updates. This frees up time for customers and allows them to spend that time growing their business instead.

 

Conclusion

These are my top five benefit of moving to the cloud. Now, some of you may be missing some, but these are the ones I think are the most vital ones. This blog post could have been titled "Top 50 reasons of moving to the cloud" if I was going to list everything, but I chose to focus on the things that matter most for enterprises considering to move to the cloud.