Business is changing. Where once desk-bound employees travelled to the same office day after day, today it’s more likely that they’re splitting their time between the office, working from home or visiting clients. In fact, according to a survey of 5,000 business bosses by Virgin Media Business, 60% of employees will work from home by 2022.
Mobile phones enable us to keep in touch wherever we are but, in this increasingly digital age, we often also need access to essential data and documents while on the move. Email can of course be used to send such files to remote team members but this slows the process down and can make document control more difficult. The last thing any business needs is six versions of the same document floating around on multiple devices and in several different formats.
So what’s the most efficient way of sharing documents and data in this new digital paradigm? Look to the cloud.
What is cloud computing?
The phrase cloud computing gets used a lot these days but it’s much more than just another buzzword offering many concrete benefits that belie its slightly ethereal-sounding name. But what is it? At its simplest, cloud computing refers to the storing and accessing of data and software via the internet, rather than from a hard drive or network within your office.
With cloud computing, the onus is taken off your business having its own internally managed network, in-house and data storage solutions and is shifted outside of the business to cloud-based service providers. You can still use the software and storage space but have none of the responsibilities for its maintenance and configuration.
For small businesses, cloud computing provides the perfect solution, as it provides an affordable and efficient way to manage their business’s digital needs. It also means that all staff can access data and applications whenever and wherever they are, from virtually any computer or smartphone.
What can you achieve through cloud computing?
Small businesses and those with home-based offices can make use of the cloud in several ways:
Secure document storage
Regardless of the type or size of your business, documents undoubtedly form an integral part of it. Stored in paper form in the office or on a local area network, they are vulnerable to theft, loss or even destruction in the event of a fire. The potential for loss or theft is greatly increased when documents are frequently used by employees in multiple locations.
When stored in the cloud your documents are safe from harm and your business is protected from the associated negative consequences. According to a business survey by Cisco, if given the choice of moving one application to the cloud, 25% would choose storage.
Popular cloud storage solutions include Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive and Microsoft’s OneDrive, which enable you to save documents to the cloud as easily as you would your own computer. It’s not just digital documents though – by using software like Nuance’s Power PDF, you can convert all your paper and digital documents to easily readable PDF files.
Instant remote access to documents and data
The other major benefit in terms of business documents with remote employees or multiple offices is that everyone is able to access documents on virtually any device, wherever they are. This can save a considerable amount of time that might otherwise be spent on waiting for files to be emailed, scanned or couriered.
Efficient, fluid remote collaboration
One of the problems faced by businesses with numerous remote team members is that collaborating on documents can be a messy and time-consuming process. When storing and accessing documents via the cloud, employees can view and amend the files as needed and specific permissions and passwords can be set as required.
When collaborating on documents across the organisation in this way, it is of course important to exercise good version control. With Power PDF, you can quickly set up who should have edit rights for each document and track changes, so you know exactly what’s going on.
Access to powerful software solutions without expensive hardware
Finally, the cloud makes it possible for small startups to access the software and computing power they need but might not otherwise have the budget for. With cloud computing, the intensive task of actually running the software is handled by remote third-party machines, while your computer need only run the interface client provided. This can make working on the go much more productive, as your laptop can then run any powerful applications you need to use.
Mobile printing and the cloud
Of course, though the world is turning increasingly digital, there are times when it is still necessary to print out documents, such as forms that you need to fill in. By having all of your documents available on the cloud at all times, you or your employees can print these out from any location, even from a smartphone or tablet.
One day, all business may be done in the cloud. For now though, those businesses that get ahead of the curve can gain a significant advantage over their competitors.
This article comes courtesy of Nuance, leading innovators in the provision of software solutions for document management, imaging and dictation.