April 30, 2013 by Susan Matthews Categories: Solutions

A recent poll conducted by Wakefield Research* suggested that, while some of the public has an understanding of “The Cloud,” many do not understand it nor do they equate social media, buying through Amazon or online banking as cloud applications they’re already using. In fact, 54% said they’ve never used cloud computing when it turns out that 95% actually have.

Read more about the Wakefield Research in Forbes magazine

Cloud 101

So, what is “the cloud” then? The cloud can be defined as the use of third-party computing resources delivered over a network, typically the Internet. Just think of AOL and “You’ve Got Mail”.

To put this definition into context, until the past decade or so, most computer programs required a piece of application-specific software on the user’s computer (a “client”). This includes everything from email (Outlook) to accounting software (Peoplesoft, SAP or QuickBooks). In many cases, these applications require a network connection to a server managed from within their company for the application to function (aka client server relationship).

Cloud-based applications are instead hosted on a central server (or data center) and accessed by a web browser, such as Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome. Now, the software and accompanying data have moved from the user’s desktop and the company’s internal servers to a server outside the company managed by the software provider. This allows information to be securely accessed from any web browser anywhere in the world; an important tool for telecommuting, disaster recovery planning and meeting the ever growing demand for instant access to information whenever and wherever needed.

The Cloud Is All Around Us

Email was one of the first cloud applications and consumers have long been using cloud-based email, from Hotmail (now Outlook Live) to Yahoo Mail to Gmail. Other popular cloud-based applications include:

  • E-commerce: Amazon and just about any other retail operation these days
  • Online banking: what bank doesn’t offer this?
  • Social media: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn
  • Photo storing/sharing: Instagram, Flickr, SnapFish
  • Web conferencing: WebEx, GoToMeeting
  • Customer Resource Management: SalesForce

Saving Money In The Cloud

The cloud offers significant financial benefits. Companies deploying cloud-based solutions avoid capital expenditures. Nor do they need expanded IT infrastructure components, including additional servers, databases, VPN, or additional support from IT staff. They just need internet access and a computer or mobile device. This can empower knowledge workers to be productive almost anywhere in the world.

Another benefit is that companies only pay for what they need. Companies do not own cloud applications, they use only what they need, typically based on user count or amount of storage space needed/used. This makes the cost a predictable, monthly operating expense that can be approved by a department or business unit head versus a capital expense that has to be approved by upper management: opex vs. capex.

Document Management and Workflow Automation Software

Robust document management and workflow automation services are also offered in the cloud. A key feature for cloud document management software is that it offers organizations the ability to securely scan, store, retrieve, track and manage their documents from any browser anywhere at anytime . The security surrounding the documents is very robust versus fileshares, both preventing outside parties from accessing documents, as well as preventing internal parties from viewing documents they should not have access to.

Cloud workflow automation software not only increases efficiency, but also accelerates processing, improves visibility into your business processes and enforces accountability in areas such as invoice processing, order fulfillment and HR.  With cloud based workflow automation software, actions taken in your key business processes are automatically routed, tracked and managed.

With the increasing prevalence of mobile, cloud document management and workflow automation software enable users to store, access and process documents from their iPhone, iPad or Android mobile device. This allows decisions to be made and actions to be taken even when your knowledge workers are on the go.

Most importantly, cloud-based document management and workflow automation software is a fraction of what it cost historically, allowing small and mid-sized businesses to take advantage of what only the very large could once afford.

Do YOU Need Cloud Document Management?

While everyone is slightly different, organizations considering a move to document management software can all benefit from cloud document management. The cloud enables them to build a competency without having to spend significant limited resources and time to prove the results. Companies will immediately realize cost savings, improved efficiencies and greater control of their documents and processes. Combining the low cost entry point and relatively quick deployment time, cloud based document management can unlock the key to measurable cost savings.