By Shatakshi Singhania, with support from Siddharth Bishnoi
“Moving to the cloud” was a phrase found only in fairy tales just two decades ago. Today, however, it refers to the use of servers, storage and other tools located in the Internet rather than on local hardware. And “the cloud” is a larger part of your life than you think – if you have ever used Facebook to store your photos, read an email on Gmail or uploaded a video to Youtube, then you are already a direct user of “the cloud”. Just as an individual user has lower costs (and effort) by not saving and organising all their emails on their computer’s hard drive or downloading millions of videos to their personal hard drive, businesses too can significantly reduce their costs and improve their efficiency thanks to cloud-based applications.
I have personally implemented a cloud-based customer relationship management platform, Salesforce.com (SFDC) for a large telecommunications client. The client previously had a complicated set of customer relationship management (CRM) programs, which led to confusion for employees. All customer information was physically stored at the client’s site, and the complicated array of programs often had difficulties integrating with each other. SFDC not only made the data more secure, but it also allowed all CRM to be viewed and managed from one single application – reducing confusion. As SFDC is a cloud-based application accessible to everyone, it is also more likely to be integrated well with other cloud-based applications and programs. SFDC helps with case and task management and also has the ability of social networking to engage the customers. It allows developers to create add-on services through force.com, helps managers to track performance, and helps a user to gain CRM records of companies through data.com. The capital required for building and maintaining this kind of infrastructure using the traditional, non-cloud based technology would have been significantly greater.
‘The Cloud” is useful not only for large multi-national corporations but also for small and medium sized businesses. Cloud based applications allow all their users to benefit from significant economies of scales, regardless of their size and location. For example, maintaining your own email server with storage and software is likely to be very expensive for a small business. In contrast, Google Apps for Work offers not just email but also video and voice calls, 30 GB online storage and security and admin controls for just 5$ per user per month. Businesses using cloud can, therefore, benefit from the success of multinational cloud companies at a very low cost due to economies of scale. Moreover, cloud based applications are not limited by location or infrastructure. There is no need anymore to opt for substandard technology simply because it is the only vendor in the area – any business anywhere in the world that has access to the internet can use the same cloud-based solutions used by the world’s best companies. A business using cloud from its early stages of growth avoids the “switching costs” and change management costs required to move to cloud in the future, and there is, therefore, a compelling case for all business to incorporate cloud-based applications as early as possible.
Iraq’s economy is dominated by the oil sector even though the main occupation of its people is agriculture. The CIA Factbook claims that the per capita income of Iraqi citizens would increase by $4000 if there were more development in other sectors of Iraq’s economy. Even the oil industry faces tough competition because of the recent global oil price crash. Building the infrastructure, knowledge and skills required for the development of sectors such as manufacturing, finance or services has taken countries decades in the past. However, this process can be much quicker for Iraq if it uses the full potential of cloud-based technologies. Cloud can act as a great equaliser, providing all Iraqi businesses access to modern technology at low cost regardless of location, local infrastructure, government investment or the size of the business. In fact, it is arguably not just an option but a necessity for all businesses to invest in the cloud if they want to survive in the modern world. Improving Iraq’s per capita income by $4000, reducing the economy’s reliance on oil and giving businesses all the technology they need to compete with modern global companies within a short time-frame seems almost like a fairy tale – but so was moving to the cloud in 2000.