Coronavirus fears highlight key advantage of the cloud

One of the core benefits of cloud technology, as I’ve touched upon before, is the way it enables staff to work from pretty much anywhere in the world, and communicate with one another wherever, or in whatever time zone, they happen to be. This was underlined in dramatic fashion in early February when the share price of the cloud-based video-conferencing tool, Zoom, rose by 15% in just one day due to concerns around the coronavirus. 

Essentially, the cloud enables many businesses to function even if they have had to shut up shop physically, due to fear of infection or the threat of a terrorist attack. In that regard, and as we industry insiders tend to phrase it, the cloud provides disaster recovery not just for data – due to geo-replication – but for staff, too — and this was a classic case of that.

A company such as Zoom that provides technology allowing people in business to communicate effortlessly irrespective of where they are will understandably do well when something as tragic – and disruptive – as the coronavirus hits. In less extreme cases than the coronavirus, businesses might order staff to work remotely if a particularly virulent stomach bug is doing the rounds. The cloud provides a flexibility and resilience that firms just didn’t have previously.

But while cloud tech enables people to work and communicate remotely, whether out of choice or necessity, one of its other strengths is its ability to let those same people collaborate effortlessly in real-time, whether that’s staff from different silos of a business working on an internal project or accountants with their clients. It enables people to access the same documents online at the same time, which can not only rationalise and streamline work processes but also enhance relationships, as there is a much more open and ‘always-on’ communication channel. For accountants, client touch points become easier and that can be invaluable commercially.

And there’s a qualitative as much as a quantitative value-add: because it doesn’t require staff to use certain types of computer, with a certain minimum amount of RAM, cloud-based tech can let staff access critical information through pretty much any tablet, iPad, phone or laptop. So if you’re a Mac person through and through, there’s no need to switch to a PC (how ghastly!) just because most people in the company you’ve started working for uses them. In the world of the cloud, your preferred way of entering it makes zero difference. As long as you have a browser you’re good to go. From an HR perspective, that’s quite a powerful recruitment tool in itself.

And clearly the fact that businesses don’t need to invest in higher end desktop units that support unwieldy local software provides immediate savings, too. Add to that the fact that there is no need to employ an IT expert (or entire division of IT ‘bods’, depending on your company’s size) to maintain and update the infrastructure, as it is all continuously updated in the cloud, provides further cost savings. It also provides time savings, as we know from experience that certain accounting softwares can create major problems when they need to be patched manually at the end of each tax year, for example. It’s never as easy as it appears to be.

Ultimately, the cloud, as the coronavirus has shown, enables even the biggest businesses to be agile and to react rapidly to events as they unfold. If your staff can’t be onsite, it’s no longer the end of the world.

Jamie Costello, Co-Founder of the cloud-based payroll provider, Paycircle

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