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What is the cloud?

Moving to the cloud. Running in the cloud. Stored in the cloud. Accessed from the cloud: these days is seems like everything is happening “in the cloud”. But what exactly is this nebulous concept?

The short answer is that it's somewhere at the other end of your internet connection – a place where you can access apps and services, and where your data can be stored securely. The cloud is a big deal for three reasons:

  • It doesn't need any effort on your part to maintain or manage it.
  • It's effectively infinite in size, so you don't need to worry about it running out of capacity.
  • You can access cloud-based applications and services from anywhere – all you need is a device with an internet connection.

This is important because there's a shift going on from office-based work to working on the move. This shift is reflected in computer hardware sales: In 2015 about 270 million desktop and laptop computers will be sold, compared to 325 million tablets and almost 2 billion smartphones.

That makes the cloud a very good place to run business software like customer relationship management (CRM) applications – software that users need to access reliably at any time, wherever they are, and on any device.

I don’t need a hard disk in my computer if I can get to the server faster… carrying around these non- connected computers is byzantine by comparison.

Steve Jobs, 1997

 

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Download our e-book How to Jumpstart Your Journey to the Cloud

The History of Cloud Computing

The Internet has its roots in the 1960s, but it wasn't until the early 1990s that it had any relevance for businesses. The World Wide Web was born in 1991, and in 1993 a web browser called Mosaic was released that allowed users to view web pages that included graphics as well as text. This heralded the first company web sites – and not surprisingly, most of these belonged to companies involved in computing and technology.

As internet connections got faster and more reliable, a new type of company called an Application Service Provider or ASP started to appear. ASPs took existing business applications on computing software and ran them for their customers to access on the internet for a monthly fee. 

But it wasn't until right at the end of the 1990s that cloud computing as we know it today appeared. That's when Salesforce introduced its own multi-tenant application which was specifically designed to do three things:

  • Run "in the cloud"
  • Be accessible over the internet from a web browser
  • Be used by large numbers of customers simultaneously at low cost

Since then the cloud has grown and grown. In fact, spending on cloud services is estimated to increase exponentially – from nearly $70 billion in 2015 to an estimated $141 billion or more in 2019.

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Software as a Service (SaaS) is in important function of cloud computing.
Learn more about SaaS and how it delivers a variety of service applications via cloud computing.

How cloud computing works

With a cloud app, you just open a browser, log in, and start working.

That means a field sales representative using cloud-based CRM can get all the information they need from their mobile device. Contact notes can be updated in real time so they are always fresh and complete and available to others – no more waiting to get back to the office to type it in. And sales managers know exactly which deals will close and when, from their desktop machines in their offices, or their tablets or phones when they are out and about.

Learn more about mobile CRM ›

And this all happens without any hardware to buy and manage, or software to install and update. That's because the hardware and software required is all the responsibility of the cloud company that runs the app. Companies like Salesforce have years of experience managing their cloud infrastructure and making sure that it's secure and reliable so that you don't have to.

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You can run all kinds of apps in the cloud:

  • Create and collaborate on documents and spreadsheets with Google Apps for Business.
  • Video conference with your colleagues on Skype.
  • Manage your Sales & Customer Service functions, alongside other key business processes on the Salesforce1 Platform.

You can even build your own social, mobile and real-time employee apps and run them in the cloud. The latest innovations in cloud computing are making business applications even more mobile and collaborative.

 

Learn more about Social CRM ›

 

Social CRM in the cloud

If you're a social media user in general, you've probably come to expect relevant information pushed to you in real time. Business applications like Sales Cloud are heading in that direction as well.

If you need help solving a problem, have an accomplishment to shout about, or want to collaborate, a social CRM like Chatter is at hand. Ask a question on Salesforce's Chatter enterprise social network and others in the company can jump in with the information you're after.

LEARN MORE ABOUT SOCIAL CRM >

Who uses the cloud?

The cloud has become so integral to our everyday lives that most people use it without even realising. In fact, for many people, life without the cloud would be radically different. There would be no Facebook, no Twitter, no Gmail, and no Spotify.

The cloud has transformed the business landscape, too. Today millions of organisations around the world rely on cloud services for everything from document creation and backup to social CRM and accounts. And just to start.

Here's what that looks like:

  • Companies with over 25,000 employees use an average of 545 cloud apps or services.
  • As of March 2016 there were on average 1.09 billion daily active users on Facebook worldwide.
  • Over half of all Internet users rely on cloud-based email services like Gmail and Yahoo! Mail to send and receive their messages.

 

 

What's so great about the cloud?

Adoption of the cloud has been swift and global. Here are some of the most important reasons why:

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FAST IMPLEMENTATION

Sign up and start using an application in the cloud instantly. Even the most wide-ranging enterprise applications are usually up and running in a matter of days or weeks rather than months or years.

 

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NO UP-FRONT COSTS

Skip arbitrary upfront costs like licenses, integration and consultants and get straight to the goods. Cloud software means you can dramatically reduce or even eliminate capital expenditure costs and instead simply pay an all-encompassing monthly fee for the service.

 

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INSTANT SCALABILITY

With cloud-based applications you can increase or decrease the number of users as your needs change over time. That means you pay only for what you need, and you never have to worry about running out of capacity.

 

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MAINTENANCE FREE

Patching, upgrading and testing applications can take up days of your IT staff's time every month, but with cloud applications none of this is necessary. That's because it's all handled in the cloud, leaving your staff with more time to work on new projects and innovations.

 

 

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ACCESS ANYWHERE

Cloud applications are designed to be accessed securely from anywhere and from any device. Simply sync it with your handheld device or tablet, make sure you’ve got internet access, and you’re good to go.

 

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BETTER SECURITY

Large companies lose an average of 265 laptops a year and if they contain confidential data then each loss has serious security implications. But with cloud applications your data is stored securely in the cloud, so a stray laptop is just an inconvenience, not a potential disaster.

 

How safe is the cloud?

The issues of cloud security and privacy play an important role in the digital era, particularly since data is not filed in folders and physically archived in an office building. Every day, millions of new records are generated and stored digitally in the cloud.

Special attention should apply to the security standards offered by the cloud provider, including measures to secure transmission and storage of data, as well as the physical security of the cloud provider data center to control the access rights of your own employees.

Nothing is more important to our company than the privacy of our customer's data.

Parker Harris, co-founder, Salesforce

 

Salesforce is aware that the confidentiality, integrity and availability of our customers' data is critical to their business processes and our own success.

With our tiered approach to cloud security we protect the most important data, in which we monitor our application, systems and processes continuously and optimized so that they meet the increasing demands and safety requirements.

You should look for these qualities in any quality cloud service provider you’re considering.

 

Taking the first step

You’ll find that many of your existing business applications have a cloud capability – from office productivity to CRM and sales management tools – so you can move your apps into the cloud at a pace that suits your business.

With predictable costs, controlled risk and immediate gains in flexibility, the business case is strong. All you have to do is take the first step.

SEE SALES CLOUD IN ACTION ›

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