When I think of the Cloud, I think of the 2013 SuperBowl commercial from Best Buy, featuring Amy Poehler. As Amy explores all that the store has to offer, she asks, in an increasingly panicked tone, What is the Cloud? Where is the Cloud? Are we in the Cloud right now?

And though cloud technologies have certainly transformed over the past five years, I think Amy’s questions genuinely express the concerns of the public when it comes to the cloud. It’s intimidating when we only understand it as this ethereal liminal space where we store all of our files.

A simple internet search about cloud integration for businesses reflects this fear of the unknown. Many write about how a switch to cloud integration must be navigated with extreme care, and there are dozens of articles that preach the risks of moving to the cloud. But what about the benefits? What if the cloud isn’t as risky or confusing as we think? After all, many of us utilize the cloud without even realizing it in our efforts to preserve personal pictures, documents, and memories.

But the cloud isn’t just for backing up our contacts anymore. Matt McNiel, Head of Google Cloud for the UK explains that “the cloud creates real value for businesses by connecting their workforce and providing a secure, reliable and collaborative infrastructure.”

Essentially, cloud technology provides us with a new way of doing business by streamlining communication, consolidating a wide variety of resources, giving us insight about data points and more, all without the cost and hassle of extra hardware.

What is the Cloud?

It’s important to make sure we understand how the cloud works for your business before we can understand exactly why the cloud is so good for business.

The tech industry is full of confusing acronyms, and the cloud is no exception. The most common acronyms are those that end in “aaS,” or “as a Service,” which as the name implies, describe cloud integrations businesses can utilize. SaaS, or Software as a Service, is the most common type of cloud platform for business.

Simon Willies, head of commercial at Currys PC World Business, summarizes SaaS very simply: “Essentially, you rent enterprise-class applications and services without the need to invest in infrastructure, staff, support costs, and so on.”

Why the Cloud?

In 2015, it was estimated that 90% of businesses would be moving to the cloud by 2018. By 2017, an Intel Security Report showed that 93% of IT professionals surveyed were using some type of cloud service in their organization. Now, the advantages of cloud service extend beyond IT and into the office.

The cloud provides a fuller view of the performance of your business. It consolidates resources like CRM, telephony, collaboration, and data management all into one package so that you have access to a 360-degree view of your business as it runs, rather than having to wait on quarterly reports to know if changes need to be made.

Scott Gerber of TheNextWeb describes cloud integration as “the quintessential way to do business in 2018.” It saves you from the hassle of administration by minimizing paperwork. It reduces IT headaches because it doesn’t need fancy hardware to run. And it allows you to collaborate with your teams at a rapid pace so that you can focus on the tasks at hand rather than passing spreadsheets back and forth all day.

Here are some of the ways cloud integration helps build a 360-degree view of your business in real time.

Streamlining Communication Pipelines

Applications like G Suite put communications all on one platform so that no one gets left behind. Everything is synced with everything else so that you don’t have to jump through hoops for simple tasks like adding meetings to your calendar from e-mails, setting reminders for those meetings, keeping collaborative task lists, and co-working on documents and spreadsheets.

It’s all in G Suite so that not only is everyone on the same page, but there’s a clear, backed-up record of any progress being made--or lack thereof. Not to mention changes can be made on documents, spreadsheets, and presentations simultaneously so that you don’t have to sort through several different versions of the same file.

Consolidating Software

Instead of having to install a separate software for every function, SaaS gives you choices of software that syncs together seamlessly so that there’s less chance of discrepancy between programs. For example, your CRM can work with your productivity tracker to create a more accurate performance metric.

Most SaaS apps can also be accessed from any device that has access to the internet so that you don’t have to pay for software to be downloaded on all the devices your team works from. That also means you can work from almost anywhere so that productivity goes up and the rigidity of office hours won’t wear you down. You have access to information when and where you need it.

Key Performance Indicators

There is a variety of KPIs for any industry. Often, there are so many that it’s difficult to keep track of them all, especially with a large team. Fortunately, the cloud has you covered here too. Cloud integration can include apps that are designed to record relevant data points from the other apps. For example, instead of clicking around searching for how much time a sales rep actually spent on the phone, cloud software can integrate with your CRM so that information is all in one place.

This lets you catch certain KPIs before they start to fall, and makes it easier to see your team’s progress over time. With a tool like Prodoscore, you can even track usage of all of your apps, so you can see if G Suite or Salesforce is being adopted and used appropriately.

Count on the Cloud

Your business is more than the sum of its reports or the numbers it spits out every year. Business involves dynamic communication and constant analysis, and the cloud helps you see these more frequently and clearly. If you want to keep up, it’s time to count on the cloud.

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