By Gareth Baron, account manager managed service providers Calyx

The buzz word in business for 2015 is ‘the cloud’. If your managed service provider or IT department has not yet moved your server to a cloud based application ask them why!

Cloud computing is a term used to refer to remote servers and software that allow for data to be stored with online access. With the rise in working from home, remote working on tablets and laptops the need to access up to date information and resources from anywhere in the world on one central database is vital.

Cloud systems can be public, private or hybrid. A popular migration for many businesses is to move towards Office 365. Office’s latest offering gives up to 300 user’s access to real time data and files. For example; you can upload your excel spreadsheet to Office 365, allow others to access the file and make adjustments which are saved even when other people have the document open. With Office 365 you get all the standard Microsoft applications like word, excel and outlook but online. It has file storage, email and video conferencing abilities.

Office 365 is not the only cloud virtual system, Google have been fast to join the revolution and made Google for Work, a system that offers personalised email, file storage, and the ability to edit and share documents online.

As a business owner it can be confusing knowing the best or most suitable applications for your business. The cloud is basically a platform where software systems are blended together and accessible to all. I think all business will migrate to cloud over time but the extent to which a business will need or rely on cloud and how quickly it is adopted by a company depends on the sector.

Of those companies that already use cloud the preferred and most common medium is via Office 365. Office 365 is the basic office package you see on your windows PC but online, it allows users to upload and edit spreadsheets or documents in real time simultaneously with others. The benefit is that you can also use it off line so internet connection is not an issue and storage is unlimited!

As with all things internet related Google has been quick to be involved and now offer their own cloud platform called ‘Google For Work’. The drawback is that is can only be used with internet connection and not off line but it is cheaper than Office 365. It is quick and easy to set up, the perfect solution for small businesses looking to keep costs down.

Businesses need to think about how vital access to the internet and their data is to the running of their business, plus do they want to store all of your files on a UK server or commit to a virtual server that could be anywhere in the world.

It is one more decision for a new or growing business to make but the benefits of having data safely stored away from fire /water damage or theft are greatly received.

I think the Cloud is here to stay. In fact I expect to see more and more cloud platforms entering the market place offering even better functionality.