One of the most significant milestones in computing history is the arrival of cloud technology. Thanks to faster networks and cheaper disk storage, tasks that were once only practical on PCs are now performed through a connection to a cloud server with no perceptible difference to the user.
Many people are familiar with cloud computing on a personal level, using a service like Dropbox or Google Drive to store and synchronize files between the different devices they own. While off-site storage and the ability to keep files updated across all devices are certainly valuable as part of a backup system, such usage does not take full advantage of what the cloud has to offer.
Just about any computing task can be performed on the cloud. Businesses that used to install Microsoft Office on all the PCs in the building can now access that same software using Office 365, a cloud version of the software suite. Video games, transportation management systems, customer service, network management, and big data systems are only a few of the many other uses of the cloud.
Making the move to the cloud has several advantages for businesses. It saves them the labor costs that come with having technicians install, update, or backup software on numerous workstations. These tasks are typically performed at a cloud service provider’s data center. These providers often have multiple data centers in different location, providing valuable redundancy in the event of a disaster.
Many software packages are sold on a subscription basis, through so-called ‘software as a service’ (SaaS) arrangements. These often allow companies with tight budgets a way to use the software they need without paying high upfront licensing costs.
Another important benefit from cloud computing is that the software behind it is scalable, either upwards or downwards. This allows a quickly growing company to add computing resources as it needs them, instead of paying a fixed cost for a block of software licenses, some of them unused. Conversely, downward scaling is also supported. This is great for companies that have seasonal or other fluctuations in staff and can reduce the number of employees using hosted software.
One of the largest growing applications of cloud technology is the hosted PBX telephone system and unified communications (UC) solution. This is a market with a huge upside that has double-digit growth, and is expected to grow to $12 billion by 2018, according to Infonetics.
Using a cloud-based PBX allows companies many of the same benefits that the cloud provides for other applications. It eliminates the need for businesses to staff technicians to maintain wiring throughout the building and inside patch rooms.
Just as cloud software is scalable, so too is a cloud phone system. It is easy to add or subtract users, thus ensuring that a business only pays for the phone service it needs.
Forbes reported on a recent study, which found that 60 percent of businesses will have at least half of their infrastructure on cloud platforms within the next three years. The benefits of the technology are just too good to pass up. This bodes well for the hosted PBX market, which will thrive as more companies ditch traditional PBXs so they can focus on core business functions.