26 October 2011 - by Ian Weatherhogg, Chief Technical Officer

This article was published in September as part of the techmesh techbytes monthly column on the Business Desk website.

Wikipedia defines cloud computing as: "internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices on demand".

Put another way, retire your servers and migrate your applications and data to a central service so that your team can get access from anywhere, anytime and using any device.

With the potential cost savings and enhancements on offer, more and more companies are beginning to grasp what the cloud can do for them.

Cost savings
The overhead of owning IT hardware and software includes expertise and maintenance charges, plus the stress and loss of productivity when anything fails. Removing your dependence saves these costs.

For core business systems like email, documents and CRM, switching to a cloud-based solution reduces the often heavy licence fees and reliance on IT support.

Remote working
A key advantage of cloud solutions (aka "software as a service") is the accessibility. Almost any device (PC, smartphone, tablet) with an internet connection can use a cloud-based system as easily from home or on the road as from the office.

Collaboration
Online office applications such as Google Apps for Business or Microsoft's new Office 365 allow you and your colleagues to create and edit documents simultaneously, rather than having to push them around the team as email attachments.

With a single version of a document (with saved revision history) you can avoid the confusion and wasted space that inevitably arises with traditional file-based editing where each member of the team ends up with multiple versions of a particular document saved in My Documents, on the server and in email folders.

Security
The security of data and documents in traditional office-based systems is as good as the physical security of desktop PCs, wireless and wired networks, the expertise of your IT staff and the honesty of your employees.

The major cloud providers have the world's leading network and physical security in place and in most cases your data will be better protected and generally safer than before.

At Refractiv we are passionate about cloud-based working, in particular Google Apps for Business.

Read the original article on the Business Desk website.

Tags: Google Apps, Cloud