It may sound like a simple question, old news even, because surely everyone knows what the cloud is? Actually, no they don't. I still get asked on many occasions to explain what "the cloud" is and if companies should look to invest in it. However, there is no straightforward answer as cloud technology covers many important areas relating to both hardware and software.
The most popular form of cloud technology that people use is email. Most people know what Hotmail or Gmail are. Many companies have already outsourced their email with hosted solutions such as Microsoft Exchange and more recently, Google business solutions. With all your emails stored remotely it is a great way to ensure reliability and eliminate concerns about future storage, virus protection or hardware failures from the servers in your office.
The next most popular form of cloud technology is cloud storage, for storing word documents, spreadsheets, music, photos etc. This enables users to store their files in the cloud, which is essentially a server or "cluster" of servers. Most people are already familiar with this in the form of Google Docs, or Microsoft Live, as well as the more recent Apple iCloud. These services are aimed at both the general public as a means of storing music collections or sharing photo albums or for organisations to store their office files. The problem with many of these storage solutions is that if you have massive amounts of data, which many larger companies usually do, it can take a long time to upload them to the cloud. Although the majority of people have fast broadband connections, the speeds quoted are only download speeds. To make use of cloud storage you have to rely on upload speeds, which are normally only 10% of your download speed. Also, not all cloud services show as a drive on your PC so you can't just drag files as you would for example when you plug a USB device into your PC. Instead, many cloud services have to be accessed via your web browser. This is not a problem for storing occasional items, but it can be annoying if you want to regularly edit a document for example. Services like Office online and Google Docs simplify this process and office connector plugins allow files to be opened directly from the cloud.
For many companies, cloud storage is great as a backup. Services can now be set up to run overnight, uploading new or modified files into the cloud. In this way, the cloud is treated more as an online backup solution so you can still access your files in the normal way, knowing they will be backed up for you.
The key thing to understand is that if your recruitment software is hosted off site, for example with true web-based systems, then it is already in the cloud. Web-based systems have gone through a number of guises over the last decade, ASP software, SaaS (software as a service) and On Demand being the main contenders. "Cloud", however, as a term seems set to have stuck as it incorporates many useful solutions. By utilising web-based software you can be safe in the knowledge that your provider is managing all your hardware requirements and backing up your data. Your recruitment system therefore automatically becomes your cloud storage solution.
There are also many financial benefits. You only pay for what you use, so cloud storage and servers can be very cost effective. Software licences are often charged as a monthly fee, usually with much smaller upfront costs. You can accurately forecast your spend, can add or remove licences quickly and of course, you will always be using the latest version of the software!
Implementing a Cloud Strategy
When implementing a cloud solution, it is important to decide exactly what your company needs. Whether it is a cloud-based storage or backup solution or a fully cloud-based office solution, take the time to examine how these different elements fit together.