evolution of the cloud

Evolution of Cloud Technology in Businesses

With buzzwords like “Artificial Intelligence” and “Internet of Things” taking center stage in many technology-based news outlets, it can be easy to assume that cloud technology is old hat. However, many of today’s emerging technologies would not be possible without the evolution of cloud-based devices and services.

For business owners, understanding this evolutionary process can mean the difference between wasting tech dollars on inefficient equipment and making smart investments in cloud-based technology that will stand the test of time.

What is Cloud Technology?

Cloud technology uses the power of the internet to offer individual users and businesses the opportunity to access both hardware and software systems remotely. Without cloud technology, businesses would have to invest heavily in developing and maintaining localized software applications to run the business, as well as the physical infrastructure required to support those applications.

With cloud technology, businesses can piggyback off the infrastructure of larger companies by accessing their programs, storage space, and networking power through the internet. Businesses can access public or private clouds, or they can utilize a hybrid of both. Public clouds are available to anyone over the internet who is willing to meet the registration and fee requirements set by the service provider. Examples of public clouds would include Facebook or Gmail. Private clouds are typically set behind a firewall with access restricted only to internal company users.

A brief history of cloud technology in businesses

While social networks and cloud-based email providers seem commonplace today, the history of cloud technology extends back less than an average human lifespan. Below are several of the main highlights along the evolution of cloud technology:

  • 1969 – J.C.R. Licklider helps to conceptualize and develop the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, or ARPANET, which was a primitive version of the internet that allowed multiple users to access computer resources from different physical locations.
  • 1972 – IBM develops the concept of virtualization with their Virtual Machine (VM) operating system.
  • 1997 – “Cloud Computing” was first defined as a term by Professor Ramnath Chellappa; companies then began offering cloud computing services to businesses in the late 1990s.
  • 1999 – Salesforce was founded to pioneer the Software-as-a-Service business model for software applications.
  • 2004 – Amazon Web Services (AWS) was launched publicly, offering on-demand cloud-based programs and services.
  • 2006 – Google launched Google Docs services, allowing users to create, store, and share documents in the cloud.
  • 2007 – Netflix launched video streaming services, allowing users to access movies and other video content without the use of physical DVDs.
  • 2011 – Apple launched its iconic iCloud platform, giving users access to a variety of content and services remotely.

Modern Cloud Technology Services

Cloud tools, hardware, and services are already a routine part of many modern business operations. The cloud-based product licensing and delivery model is commonly broken down into several sub-categories:

  • Software as a Service (SaaS) – Businesses can subscribe to and access software applications via the internet.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS) – Businesses can utilize this service to develop their own custom applications for internal company use.
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – Large cloud technology providers offer virtual infrastructure, such as servers and data storage, to smaller businesses that are lacking in physical infrastructure.
  • Desktop as a Service (DaaS) – Businesses can access virtual machines and virtual operating systems through the cloud.
  • Backup as a Service (BaaS) – Instead of hosting localized backups of important company data, businesses can utilize a BaaS offering to manage cloud-based backups.

Although the above sub-categories represent the most common cloud-based services, additional nomenclature and associated categories are constantly evolving. Some more recent cloud services include Managed Software as a Service (MSaaS), Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS), Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS), and Information Technology Management as a Service (ITMaaS).

As more businesses continue to embrace cloud technology and demand a wider variety of product and service offerings, cloud-based providers will work to remain competitive in an emerging marketplace by taking advantage of future developments in cloud computing. 

Cyber Security Tips for Businesses

With the increase of computer-based operations for many businesses, a strong cyber security strategy is an extremely important part of your operational plan. Although investments in security may not seem like they contribute to your company’s bottom line, failing to consider security risks and taking appropriate action to avoid them can have disastrous and costly consequences for your business. To ensure your business is well protected before an incident occurs, consider the following cyber security tips for businesses.

Install software updates routinely

Software updates may seem like a frequent annoyance, but they serve a very important purpose in keeping your business data safe. Hackers are constantly coming out with new viruses, and software updates often include important patches to close the loopholes that hackers exploit. It is important to keep any software used by your company up to date, including:

  • Antivirus software
  • Operating Systems
  • Firewalls
  • Web Browsers and plugins
  • Business applications and software
  • Cloud-based communications software

Installing these important updates will minimize the opportunities for hackers to access your system externally.

Utilize Two-Factor Authentication

Two-Factor Authentication, or 2FA, refers to a security measure where employees must provide two different means of verifying their identity before they can access critical business systems, such as email accounts or company databases. Typically, a user will log in with their username and password as the first authentication factor. Then, they will utilize a second security measure – a fingerprint scan, security token, or a push notification sent to the user’s verified cell phone – to complete the verification process. This added layer of security helps to minimize unauthorized access to important company systems and can easily be changed as employees join or leave the company.

Set company-wide security standards and adhere to them

In larger companies with fragmented departments, getting everyone on the same page about proper security standards can be challenging. The first step is to start with a documented set of security standards that can be easily referenced by employees, then implement a communication plan to ensure all employees are following these standards regularly. The completed cyber security standards plan should include the following:

  1. Quarterly training for all employees on proper cyber security measures

    In companies with dedicated network security personnel, the security team sets and manages proper security standards for the company’s network, but those standard operating procedures are not always thoroughly communicated throughout the rest of the organization. To maintain a high level of security, it is important that all employees are properly trained on a regular basis regarding cyber security standards.

  2. A list of potentially harmful websites that are blocked on company computers

    Blocking all potentially harmful websites on company servers can severely hinder business operations and decrease employee morale. For example, the company’s marketing department will likely need to access common social sites like Facebook or Instagram in order to fulfill the company’s marketing objectives. However, some websites have very little use in the normal course of operations for the company and could present a considerable security risk if left unchecked.  Have your company security team evaluate the most dangerous websites and create permissions settings on the company network that block those sites from being accessed on the company network.

  3. Password standards for all employee accounts and devices

    There are a variety of ways that hackers can access company accounts and systems, but one of the most preventable ways is through unsecure passwords. All employee accounts and devices that are accessed on the company network should have highly secure passwords that are changed frequently (typically about every 90 days). During the employee training process, it is important to communicate how employees should handle passwords internally. Your company should institute password policies, such as:

    • Never write down a password.
    • Use different passwords for different company accounts and devices.
    • Passwords should be a specified length and include at least 3 different types of characters.

All company passwords should also be managed by a secure password management program that allows security personnel to force password changes if systems or accounts are compromised.

Leverage the cloud

If your company doesn’t have a designated security team, managing all the aspects of a proper cyber security management program can be overwhelming. Fortunately, leveraging cloud-based programs can help minimize the workload on your team. Reputable cloud-based service providers will install system updates regularly on your behalf, and they also utilize highly secure platforms to protect their customers’ data. Many cloud-based services also have built in integrations with other frequently used business systems, which allows a company to transfer data efficiently without having to use a local data warehouse that requires additional security measures.

Utilizing these tips can help your business avoid security compromises that can be time-consuming and costly. The key to an effective cyber security strategy is in understanding how threats can occur and working proactively to avoid them before they happen.

benefits of cloud solutions

Benefits of an Integrated Contact Cloud Solution

Although moving your contact center to the cloud may seem like a daunting task, the benefits likely outweigh the costs. Localized contact center solutions are inefficient, inflexible, costly, and damaging to the customer experience. Working with a reputable cloud-based provider can get your contact center operational quickly so you can reap the following benefits:

  • Scalability – As your call center grows, your business can easily add on features and services need to expand your operation without planning for a large expenditure outlay. Cloud systems also allow for easy addition or removal of devices, allowing companies to handle seasonal fluctuation in communication volume with ease.  
  • Better Cost Control – With many cloud solutions, you only pay for the services you need, which allows for better cost control of resources. Investments in hardware and software are minimal with a cloud solution, and system maintenance and security costs are reduced significantly.
  • Increased Engagement – In a recent market study conducted by Customer Contact Week Digital, increased digital engagement was reported as the #1 priority for contact center professionals in 2019. Customers expect to speak with a live person who can help address their concerns as quickly as possible, and cloud-based solutions can help achieve that goal through efficient call routing and fewer dropped or mishandled calls.
  • Customization of the Customer Experience – By integrating with a variety of customer management and data programs, cloud solutions enable businesses to better understand customer needs and adapt their processes accordingly. Automated programs can further enhance the customer experience by documenting communication attempts, initiating follow up, and sending digital resources to the customer based on a predefined set of rules.
  • Improved Quality and Responsiveness – Cloud-based solutions facilitate remote workforces and instant communication with supervisors or other agents for assistance when needed. These features create happier workers, who in turn provide higher quality service to customers. Call management features also provide greater responsiveness by routing calls correctly and efficiently.
  • Enhanced Security – Cloud solutions are more reliable than localized systems, and cloud service providers handle important security measures and product updates on your behalf. This makes for a more secure environment without the need for additional IT staff.
  • Flexibility for your Team – Contact center agents enjoy flexible working hours and remote locations, but they also appreciate the flexibility of a cloud-based system that can simplify the work required to properly care for customers. Integrated interfaces provide access to cross-functional data, which allows them to understand a customer’s entire experience and saves time.

Utilizing an integrated contact cloud solution will give your company a competitive edge in handling customer service issues. Exploring these benefits and how to best harness them for your business will help you to identify and develop memorable customer experiences to meet your clients’ changing needs.