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What is Cloud Computing?
What is Cloud Computing? It is a revolution that will change your business for the better, letting you work faster, cheaper and better…. and from anywhere, just about.
Cloud Computing is one term for Internet-based software and hardware platforms – basically, instead of installing programs on your own computer, you access them over the Internet – Gmail is cloud computing, in fact most of what Google offers is cloud computing – you access it via a web interface. Are you familiar with Hootsuite, the social networking client? That’s Cloud Computing – also known as a Web Application (Web App). Many of you probably already use Freshbooks (get it free from this link) – one of my favourite apps, that lets you track time and estimate & invoice easily.
It’s cool because it allows for a number of wonderful things – you can access your business information and applications from any internet connected device, so you’re no longer tied to one computer at your desk – PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad etc… You’ve got real-time business information always at your fingertips – which allows you to make decisions based on up-to-date, accurate company data.
Because it’s not tied to one computer, you’re in no danger of losing everything if that computer breaks – your data is stored securely in data centres with backup systems. Plus, you’ve always got your documents to hand, as long as there’s a device with an internet connection nearby.
Because you’re accessing the app over the web, the company that writes the app can quickly correct bugs and introduce new features – so you never have to buy new versions like you do with traditional software. New features to let you do things faster and better are added all the time. Web Apps companies are also very good at supporting their users, in my experience.
Web apps companies also tend to be much friendlier to each other than traditional software companies, even building their systems so your applications can talk to each other, your contact lists are linked to your customer management system, which links to your project system, which also links to your invoicing system which is linked to your accounting system – so you can automate many of your time-consuming tasks, and get a lot more done.
If you have a company, perhaps staff are located in several different locations. Web Apps are great for teams like this, because they easily allow you to collaborate with team members and share documents – you can even work on them in real-time together, despite being miles apart. You can set up and work on projects together, see what’s in the sales funnel, track customer interactions, arrange conferences, training, customer presentations, seminars… in fact any sort of meeting, online. Cloud computing is letting people work together better, faster, cheaper and more profitably.
My company, Ex Ignibus, specialises in web apps (cloud computing) for small businesses – we install Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE) as the interface, linked with applications for accounting, invoicing, email marketing, customer relationship management, project management, word processing, spreadsheets – and lots more – for single person businesses up to large, geographically-separate, teams. Web Apps are inexpensive, and can be afforded by any business – it currently costs around $50 per user per year to buy GAPE, and many of the additional Web Apps offered are free as long as they’re integrated with the GAPE solution. Others cost between $10-$25 per month, usually increasing as your requirements increase – so you, as a small business owner, can get a pretty awesome business system for less than $50 per user per month – in comparison to regularly spending hundreds of pounds or dollars buying new software licenses for installable computer-based software. Many Web Apps are also free for micro-businesses (single employee or small team).
So, as you can see, cloud computing offers a new way of working which breaks free of traditional single-computer information and restrictive private networks, offering a secure, simple way for small businesses and teams to enjoy the kind of software that only large corporations could afford previously. The only software tied to my computer these days is Expression Web, Visual Basic and Photoshop – development tools I build sites with that demand higher processing power than most business apps and usually involve large filesizes. To try Web Apps out requires little or no investment, and could have massive positive effects on your business, so why don’t you give ‘em a try? If you need a bit of help, drop me a line via the contact form at Ex Ignibus.
Take care and have fun out there,