Most business owners have heard about cloud computing by now. The main benefits are cost savings and greater flexibility, but there is more that a powerful, integrated cloud platform can do. Here are five ways cloud services can be a game changer.
Create and host website and mobile applications
Cloud computing servers allow users set up custom-made applications that can track your business’s enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM) and revenue per customer. By tapping in to data stored on the cloud server, these applications can perform predictive analytics to help you make forward-looking decisions.
In addition, with cloud you can design mobile apps that link to your website. These provide you with real-time data and analytics into users’ behaviours, enabling you to create more targeted, personalised campaigns and notifications.
For example, if you own a store and you want to create a unique shopping experience both online and offline, the cloud combined with data and machine learning can help you achieve this. It gives you the power to make specific, targeted product recommendations to your customers based on their past behaviour as well as predictive analytics.
Become part of the Internet of Things
Along with customer experience, consumers expect a lot more from the products they buy – and it is becoming a business imperative to make “smarter”, more useful, connected products.
However, the Internet of Things (IoT) is about more than simply connecting your computer or smart phone to your activity tracker, alarm system or house lights. IoT’s ability to collect big data through the power of the cloud can help you change the way you do business. According to a recent Microsoft report on IoT, “An intelligent system is transformative… new insights are generated that drive the organisation’s objectives forward on many levels.”
In simple terms, this system works by installing sensors into anything from a yoghurt cup to a bridge, or whatever product your business offers, and then using these sensors to record and send data back into the cloud. That data allows you to collect specific feedback on consumer behaviour and even what they might want in the future.
You can take it a step further by combining big data with real-time processing to better engage with your customers. John Deere did this by adding data connectivity to its equipment, giving farmers information about which crops to plant and plough, where and when.
Virtualise your machines
More businesses are using the cloud to run virtual machines that can help them save money and increase productivity.
Virtualisation refers to creating or moving to a virtual version of computer hardware, operating system, storage device or computer network resource. This is a great option if you need additional computer capacity, but don’t want to spend more money to add physical infrastructure.
By deploying virtual servers, you can reduce the operational costs of your business, increase application availability and gain flexibility. All of this allows your business to grow while enjoying greater ease of management, simplified licensing, better use of hardware, lower energy costs and easier maintenance. Virtualisation also enables you to respond to IT challenges quicker, with the option to scale additional resources as you need them.
Create, manage and distribute media
One of the greatest challenges many businesses face is how to be heard in a world saturated by messages and media. With the cloud, you can create, manage and distribute media more effectively.
NBC News is a great example of a company embracing this. They have been producing phone apps since 2008, with the strategy to be on every platform their audience members engage with. The next step was to create a special experience based on the best features each platform had to offer their fans.
Cloud computing was an important way to do this because it allowed them to create back-end functionality for the app once, and ensure it was compatible with all devices connecting to the cloud. The result was that they can deliver news in the fastest amount of time across operating systems. Users have rated the experience 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Keep your information and environment secure
Along with reputation and customer experience, security is likely at the top of your list of priorities. A trusted cloud allows automatic security updates of all servers and virtual machines based on policies that you set and control. It also enables you to control password management from a single source.
In addition, a site recovery plan can also protect physical servers. This works by automating the replication of virtual machines and workloads, so that you can use the cloud as your recovery site. You can also automate the recovery of services should there be a site outage at your primary data centre, as well as run a secondary data centre as a back-up and recovery site.
Making use of cloud services like these can be a game changer for your business. To find out more about how a product like Microsoft’s Azure could change the way you do business, click here.
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