At this point in the 21st century, it’s highly unusual to come across somebody who doesn’t recognize ‘the cloud’. What isn’t so uncommon is to hear business owners confess their confusion over how the cloud, and all its related innovations and benefits, can help drive their business.
Of the cloud solutions currently inhabiting the market, perhaps the most notable for giving business owners some much-needed support is Microsoft’s suite of cloud solutions. Including titles such as SharePoint, Azure and OneDrive, Microsoft’s Cloud suite has become a dominant force in the business world – as many are finding out when they surpass their competitors.
But if you’ve got SharePoint on your computer and aren’t quite sure how exactly it’s going to help your business to nail its targets, or you’re currently using OneDrive to store nothing but music, then this article – and CNi Solutions – can help.
So, let’s dust off Microsoft’s cloud applications and see exactly how three in particular can drive your business forward.
Share and Share Alike with SharePoint
SharePoint is not a new application, having been released all the way back in 2001 – yes, Microsoft were pioneering ways to share data within organisations in the early 2000s. With SharePoint, organisations create a website and upload documents that can be shared between users (it’s really in the name).
Although primarily marketed as a document management and storage facility, the highly-configurable nature of SharePoint allows for many more uses. For example, processes can be automated within SharePoint to save time, whilst there are also opportunities for better reporting and much greater collaboration between teams with a few tweaks at set up.
By delving into the customisation available on SharePoint, it’s also possible to create business intelligence portals, bringing information from different sources together and providing employees with the power to make better-informed decisions.
It’s not just SharePoint by itself which makes for a powerful tool, either. Combining the likes of Excel spreadsheets or a Microsoft CRM with SharePoint can supercharge its capabilities and act as the thread which pulls your business’ processes together. The result is a system which gives unprecedented insight into the business and its strategic choices, with SharePoint sitting at the heart.
On Cloud 9 with Azure
The next Microsoft cloud solution that many business owners have overlooked is Microsoft Azure. Formerly released under the Windows banner, Azure has evolved into a must-have collection of cloud computing services for any organisation looking to use Software as a Service (SaaS) or Platform as a Service (PaaS). Based on the cloud, Azure allows users to build, test, deploy and manage applications through a network of data centres.
The immediate benefit for users is that they no longer have to spend money building data centres or running servers. Freed from the constraint of a physical server and instead paying on the basis of usage, Azure users are able to scale up their businesses without huge expenditure, lengthy contracts, or physical limitations.
The cloud-based nature of Azure also means that additional infrastructure isn’t necessary in order to deploy new applications quickly. This is also great news for in-house IT teams, who have one less thing to worry about, and who are no longer weighed down by maintenance of on-site servers.
Putting Azure into action means your business can always stay ahead, save on the cost of physical servers, and can work confident in the knowledge that virtual machines can provide additional processing power and storage at a moment’s notice.
OneDrive, Many Uses
Finally, there’s OneDrive. Mistaken by many as a simple storage facility akin to the likes of Dropbox, OneDrive actually has a whole spectrum of uses within a professional environment.
Although there are clear differences between Dropbox and OneDrive, the latter does benefit from some similarities. For instance, OneDrive can continually back up documents stored in the cloud, minimising the damage of data loss. There’s also the inherent freedom of being able to access documents from anywhere in the world – all you need is an internet connection.
What elevates OneDrive above the competition is its position within the Microsoft ecosystem. Using some clever programming, OneDrive allows for switching between different devices. Settings on Windows 8, for example, can be saved to OneDrive allowing users to have the same experience no matter which of their Windows 8 devices they’re using – be it a Surface Pro or a laptop.
OneDrive also comes complete with free access to Office Online, adding a whole new resource to your arsenal, and enabling your team to work remotely. In fact, for business owners, OneDrive is the ultimate remote working tool, allowing employees to share and create documents together, and driving the rest of the Microsoft cloud suite further.
It’s clear from the overview above that each of Microsoft’s cloud provisions has a benefit to enjoy. The real joy, however, comes from pulling the cloud solutions together to create an ecosystem within which your business can grow and succeed.
The heady combination of Azure, OneDrive, SharePoint and many more of Microsoft’s cloud-based tools is one which can free your business of its chains – be they monetary, location-based limitations, or the need for skills not currently available.
By introducing these solutions to your business and breaking those chains, you can equip your organisation with the resources needed to provide a whole new perspective on your organisation, its future, and the competition. Will you give it a try?
This article was written by Neil Haydock, the founding Director of Cloud Solutions Provider CNi Solutions.