Clouds are drifting through many business optimisation conversations these days. Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) has established itself over the past few years and the adoption of cloud services has branched out to Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).
Why cloud services?
Apart from the buzzwords, cloud-based business solutions and applications offer organisations ever-growing ways to improve how they’re doing things.
Cloud technology was born from the enterprise need for a more secure, instantly scalable, disaster-resistant IT infrastructure that costs less to run. Remember how it used to be normal practice to run your own servers, tucked away in a special room with a heat pump to keep things cool? Those were the days.
Hans Arz, Portfolio Manager - Cloud Products at Spark Digital, says self-managed servers are fast becoming a thing of the past. “Security and reliability are ongoing challenges, and the costs of hardware, software and IT people for maintenance are high. Now many New Zealand companies are retiring their server rooms in favour of using cloud services provisioned out of state-of-the-art data centres.”
Hans also points out that businesses only have to pay for what they need now, instead of what they might need in the future. “There’s no need to plan hardware requirements five years ahead anymore, because cloud services can expand and shrink as necessary – even on a daily basis. And you can fund cloud services through operating funds, instead of draining the company’s cash-flow through large capital expenditures.”
Some of the best cloud services and apps to employ right now
Looking beyond the infrastructure, you can focus on how cloud applications can improve employees’ lives. In addition to powerful systems like Microsoft Office 365 (the cloud version of Office), there are apps that can release your firm from the perils of paper and the Groundhog Day of repetitive tasks.
Putti Forms turns manual, email and paper based processes into applications and NextMinute is a job management system for mobile workforces that looks after scheduling, job allocation, quotes and invoices; it does almost everything, except make coffee”, says Hans.
Even something as straightforward as Voice for Skype for Business, which simplifies online meetings, can lift productivity by making collaboration easier.
“Every cloud service is targeted to resolve a particular problem. They all free people up to do more meaningful work, plus you appear more innovative and informed to your customers, which helps your business to stay ahead of the competition.”
Hans also notes that when sales people can pull out a mobile device (phone, tablet or laptop) that gives them access to all the information, forms and services they need, customers can’t help but be impressed. Barriers to purchase can be overcome on the spot, simply because the salesperson has everything they need at their fingertips.
Cloud-based technology is adaptive
On the topic of sales, seasonal bubbles can be a big headache for many Kiwi businesses. So how can cloud business solutions help a business expand services to meet demand, then shrink when the rush is over? An app like PureCloud Engage is an all-in-one omnichannel contact centre service that can be deployed in days. It helps contact centre agents provide exceptional customer service and lets you ‘breathe in and breath out’, adding and removing agents to scale as required.
On the local front, Spark customer Fastway Couriers is ‘Uberising’ to meet Christmas demand. “Over the pre-Christmas season our volume scales up significantly, and it can be difficult to contract a driver for a limited time. So we’re going to capture the extra resource we need with Uberisation. Casual drivers will have an app on their phone and we’ll use mapping software to show them the best routes. We’ll also be able to extend into evening deliveries when people are at home, ready to receive their online shopping deliveries,” says Bruce Speers, Director at Fastway Couriers.
While you might want to gallop into the cloud at speed, because services can be turned on and off or scaled with ease, Hans Arz believes professional advice is the first step for business transformation through cloud services.