The Cloud is a term that has been floating around the tech world for the last few years.

In what ways does the cloud differ from normal IT systems? Traditional IT systems are held locally, on servers or PCs. The cloud uses a network of remote servers that host the software and make it accessible online. This means software or data can be accessed from anywhere in the world, and it means you can avoid buying expensive hardware and software to run data-heavy business programs.

With these powerful software solutions becoming web-based, it makes them an option for companies of all sizes.

Is the cloud safe?
There is a common misconception that the cloud is somehow riskier than local IT systems. The truth is, once a local IT system is connected to the internet (in 2015 this is nearly all) then it is just as open to the world as a cloud system is.

The term “the cloud” gives an image of an open field of data free for anyone to connect to. In reality, it just means the system the information is on, is not held locally. It is still held on a server and is protected by advanced security systems and firewalls.

What cloud and web-based services are out there?
There are web-based cloud options for all the usual business systems; accounts, customer relationship management (CRM), marketing, ordering, timesheets, enterprise resource planning (ERP), material requirements planning (MRP), task management systems (TMS) and more.

There are cloud data storage companies like Dropbox, which allow you to back up your computer and make it possible for you to share documents and files within a discreet network. Cloud project management systems like WorkflowMax, making it possible to manage jobs and quote for new work remotely.

Cloud time management and booking systems such as Timely; a scheduling, timesheet and time tracking application that can schedule and log hours, simultaneously. Marketing applications like Mail Chimp, which aid in building and nurturing an audience.

Industry specific cloud software like Tidy; a project management system for the construction sector. And MRPEasy; a powerful ERP/MRP software, for the manufacturing sector that cuts costs, improves processes and increases profits.

Xero; a powerful cloud accountancy tool, which is taking over the accounting world with an ease of use, great real-time reports and most importantly its ability to be integrated with many other cloud systems. The growing popularity of Xero, among small and medium businesses (SMB), has led many accountants and bookkeepers to seek out cloud integration specialists, who are able to assist with implementing full technical business solutions for their clients. We have recently had many accounts professionals in need of our expertise. If you are an accountant or bookkeeper in need of technical assists, contact us here.

Why is the cloud beneficial?
The benefits of using cloud-based systems are: They are cheaper to buy, set up and run than either bespoke software or large industry standard software, from the likes of Microsoft Dynamics and SAP. The effect of this is SMB can now use tools that big businesses have been using for years to lower costs and increase profits.

Web-based systems are easier to control as you can manage them remotely. Most importantly, cloud integration specialists, can make each of the individual cloud solutions communicate and share information so the ordering system can update the accounts and the timesheets can update TMS.

A very small example of the power of the cloud
This week we worked with a local beautician; they were making money, but they were unclear on what products and services made/lost them money. They also had a common problem in their industry of people missing appointments.

We worked with them, to integrate an online booking system for their website and Facebook page, so customers could book on calendars (that the beauticians can update instantly). As well as being able to keep the calendar up to date from the timesheets, they were able to list out full services, deals and products.

The process: The customer picks an available slot – pick the services – the customer and the member staff both get a message confirming the booking – the booking is placed on the member of staffs schedule – a reminder is sent to the customer on the day before the appointment – when the session is completed, the transaction information is instantly sent to Xero. This process is automated, saving time, reducing tedious tasks and keeping their account records updated, allowing them to see which services and products made them money.