Futurologists claim the future is here and that it’s in the cloud. But what do they know?
Humanity’s greatest thinkers have always struggled when glancing into their crystal balls, so are they right about cloud computing, or will it be one of technology’s many historical footnotes?
It doesn’t help when US research shows that many board level executives have yet to be convinced of its merits. For some, it’s just another passing fad, which they don’t want to blow the family silver on.
Every technological development has its early adopters and its luddites and cloud computing is no different. For instance, email and texting both took time to gel into everyday business practices and the development of the internet itself has been a gradual process.
What’s getting in the way of cloud domination?
The answer to that can probably be summed up in one word – risk. Can business owners trust the cloud?
In April this year one of Amazon’s land-based servers suffered a severe malfunction which closed thousands of its client websites and services. The financial loss to business was incalculable, and it isn’t an isolated case. Google’s Gmail suffered a similar breakdown in 2009, as did Skype, and users of Twitter know that its services are frequently down.
These setbacks are both a blow to the cloud giants, but also an incentive. The company that can offer the most robust service, might just eventually take the largest slice of the pie?
Pros and cons of the cloud
It could be argued that the three biggest advantages of the cloud are:
- Cost – no need for software licences, no need for on-site IT teams.
- Services – access to a great range of services, on demand.
- Mobility – applications can be accessed from any location on multiple devices.
The major disadvantages are:
- Security – a proper security model for cloud computing is not yet developed.
- Data migration – if the business wants to move its data, can it get access?
- Economics – what happens if the provider goes out of business, or is taken over?
A risk worth taking?
With business it’s always about the bottom line; if a company can increase sales and profits, then any risk, within reason, is worth taking. One area where business can gain immensely from the cloud is web-based CRM.
The benefits for business far outweigh the drawbacks, and this could prove decisive in establishing the cloud as a reputable business tool.
Advantages of web-based CRM
Web-based CRM offers many advantages over its on-site rival:
- Cheaper – no need for internal server systems or IT teams.
- Access – data can be accessed anywhere, at anytime.
- Real time reporting – the database can be constantly updated in real time
- Services – all CRM services are linked – marketing/sales/customer services etc.
- Simplicity – ease of use, no need for extensive training.
The advantages for business are obvious and many small to medium companies are switching over to web-based CRM for the reasons outlined above. Huge savings can be made without the need to buy and install separate on-site servers. There’s also no need to employ huge on-site IT teams to look after it all. So the savings alone are attractive to business, but there’s more.
Real time updating of the database helps companies keep on top of leads, orders and customer inquiries. Marketing and sales strategies can be quickly adopted and changed if they need to be. Employees, who work off site, can get instant access to information, making the whole process quicker, leaner and more efficient.
An office without software
These new services are not only changing the way businesses operate, they’re also changing the way we work.
With the ability to access data anywhere at anytime, a ‘new office’ is emerging anywhere a reliable internet connection can be made. It’s at the airport, in the coffee shop, the park, and of course the home. Perhaps the cloud’s biggest legacy will be the softwareless office.
It makes perfect sense for companies to go in this direction, and there are a number of web-based CRM companies such as Workbooks CRM, Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics that are making it easy for them to do so.
The new CRM services are easy to use, and they are based upon consumer sites such as Linkedln and Facebook, so there is familiarity for users.
The cost savings and real-time access to data is driving more and more companies into the cloud and as these businesses grow and benefit from cloud services, so more will follow.
Once the Facebook generation, with their need for ubiquitous web services, come of age, it’s almost impossible to imagine a world without the cloud.
It may still have some doubters, but the future, it seems, is in the clouds.
About the Author:
Jeff Macgonical is an experienced UK based writer and journalist. He has worked for the BBC and has interviewed top politicians, CEO’s, and broken many exclusive stories over the years. Currently, Jeff is working as a freelance blogger and writer in the cloud, SaaS and technology markets.