We’ve talked about the cloud before, but a quick refresher is that the cloud is a metaphor for the internet, anything that you can access or work from that is not on your hard drive. (And funnily enough, the word “cloud” itself comes from a graphic representation or flow chart in the early days of the internet, where a literal drawing of a puffy cloud represented information accessed from the internet.)
In this article we’re going to unpack why the cloud is going to be everywhere in 2021 and beyond, along with the challenges and benefits that the growing cloud presents.
Why is the cloud growing?
With the advent of smartphones and other personal devices, we have rapidly shifted to a world where we can’t rely on our hard drives to work effectively on the go. The availability and expectation of working from the cloud have snowballed off each other until even systems we didn’t dream would be anything but analog have gone into the cloud.
Communication systems, for example; we used to dial a business number, wait for it to ring a few times, and leave a detailed message if we weren’t too annoyed by that point. Now we have cloud-hosted phone systems such as VoIP, which is a significant change for connecting offices with on-the-road employees and clients from anywhere in the world. (We’ve written extensively on the other capabilities that VoIP has through the cloud, see here.)
The cloud has also changed how businesses of every size manage their data and information. Infrastructure as a service (IAAS) and software as a service (SAAS) are on the rise because it is more cost-effective to allow larger, more established, or more experienced businesses to manage outside servers to maintain their data and provide appropriate security within the cloud.
This 2019 BXJ article is a great primer for understanding just how fast technology, particularly digital technology, has grown and with it an increasing need to safely and securely manage all the data that is being generated (mostly by and about consumers.) Because of this increase in information, and the pressure to efficiently dissect and put this information to use (again, with the focus on consumers), there is an increasing need to manage this data in a way that is easily and speedily accessible. This makes working from the cloud so attractive and growing the cloud a necessity. When “information is everywhere, all the time”, the cloud needs to be everywhere too.
One thing that is expanding the cloud is digital storage. Some organizations are looking at developing or commercializing their own cloud systems and industry analysts predict that 75% of all databases will be operating from the cloud by 2022, through a mix of both public and private cloud infrastructure.
What’s the difference? Private clouds work from on-premise infrastructure and personnel, while public clouds use service providers and technology to host digital content. 70% of apps and data operate from the public cloud, but for businesses to stay ahead of the game, the way of the future is tapping into the best of both worlds. Eliminating information silos and using a hybrid cloud creates innovative experiences for both customers and employees.
What’s the downside to more cloud everywhere?
Regardless of how you use the cloud, more cloud everywhere means more potential for your data to be compromised. The biggest challenge facing the cloud has and always will be security. And with automation and AI playing a larger role in managing the cloud, security efforts have to pivot to keep up with shifting security threats.
An additional concern is ensuring that employees are trained in the unique aspects of integrating and managing both private and public cloud infrastructure, in addition to implementing appropriate security measures for both. Interestingly enough, the above article quotes a survey noting that 63% of respondents said it was harder to find a qualified engineer than to locate Bigfoot! And a shortage of qualified engineers means the significant slowdown of cloud-based projects.
Another issue is that public and private clouds are managed separately, have their own complex infrastructure, and data tends to be stuck (or incredibly different to move) from one cloud system to another. The promise of cloud everywhere is that it is an experience, rather than a destination. But with clouds so fragmented, it will take some specific steps to unlock the full potential of the hybrid cloud.
This recent CIO article provides a fantastic and specific breakdown into these steps that organizations have to take to fully implement the cloud. The short version, is that the need the following three systems in place:
- On-premise cloud infrastructure, which supports and alleviates mission critical applications that weren’t designed to run on the cloud
- Advanced data services that run through the cloud, and
- Seamless data mobility, which bridges clouds and eliminates silos
The future of the cloud everywhere is here, even in space now! But the complex reality of managing public, private, and digital clouds means it will take a while before the cloud is operating the seamless, integrated experience we’ve been hoping for.
What’s the benefit to my small business?
Technical difficulties aside, there are still ways that more cloud everywhere will affect your business and industry for the better.
Developments through the cloud are having a measurable impact on healthcare. For example, an app was developed that has helped save lives of medically fragile infants, and an advanced analytics system is reducing hospital admissions through early identification of potential health problems. Benefits such as these, and more go beyond the base value of a speedier internet; they save lives!
In addition, implementation of cloud tools also allows hospital systems to save time and money, putting more of their resources toward increasing the care that patients receive. More cloud everywhere means easier and faster accessibility of patient records, in addition to stronger security measures to protect sensitive personal and medical information.
In the legal field, more and more offices are turning to cloud-based solutions which is resulting in more business for those firms. These solutions include client data storage, advanced cybersecurity, client-first CRM systems, and hosted email and document management services, to name a few.
Just this year, firms using the cloud made $40,000 more per lawyer as compared to firms who have been slow to adopt these client-based solutions. Cloud-based legal solutions tend to be more affordable and accessible, making firms that employ them more attractive to clients when legal needs arise.
More broadly in the world of small business, AI applications within the cloud are on the rise and the growth of cloud computing will dramatically impact the world of business. With technologies like Google’s Quantum Breakthrough and the eventual trickle-down effect that technology will have, businesses of all sizes will be able to focus more time and energy toward customer satisfaction and acquisition.
Internal cloud-based benefits for small businesses include faster app development, better solutions for working remotely, increased data security, cost and time savings, and unlimited storage.
The bottom line is that more cloud everywhere creates more and better opportunities to connect with clients, while also lowering costs and creating a more efficient (and more enjoyable) work environment for you and your staff.
Is your small business in the cloud yet? Tech Masters can provide a free assessment and recommendations for your unique needs.
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