Cloud: the next big thing in financial technology?
At sharedserviceslink.com’s Accounts Payable Tech and e-Invoicing Summit this year, cloud computing is hot on the agenda. But what exactly is it, and how can it leverage your business functions?
Cloud computing is essentially using remotely hosted servers to store, manage and process data, rather than using a local server. This delivery model is a classic example of software as a service (SaaS).
The main reason Oxfam decided to utilise cloud technology was because of the flexibility in usage it gave them. I spoke to Stewart Marshall, Enterprise Architect at Oxfam GB, who explained that due to the largely unpredictable and dramatic peaks in demand for processing capacity, they were too occupied with the management of hardware to take advantage of other value-adding opportunities. By only paying for what they use, Stewart said that Oxfam “will be able to respond much more appropriately and be much more strategic”.
The nature of cloud computing also means that it requires no technological installation or maintenance. Without the need for an upfront financial or resource investment, it’s a relatively cheap option. While a monthly charge is usually payable, this is weighed against cost savings in other areas such as paperwork reduction and removal of IT staff.
Another advantage of cloud solutions, in addition to flexibility and cost is the increased accessibility of information. It can be utilised by multinational organisations as well as SMEs. For the latter, it can leverage their capabilities without the need for additional resource, and for larger companies, it has allowed for international information sharing and knowledge management on a whole new level.
There are, however, potential drawbacks to cloud computing that should be thoroughly considered.
While online storage and back up means their data can’t be lost or destroyed, the flip side is that if the security of the site was compromised, sensitive information could become public. Also, while your provider is responsible for the maintenance of the service, in the event of a crash you might not be able to get as fast a response if IT staff were based in-house. Finally, be sure to conduct a thorough cost comparison and analysis before you move to the cloud. Unless you are clear about which features you need and don’t need, you may end up paying more later down the line for additional supporting solutions.
Have you utilised a cloud based solution in your organisation? How has this changed how you do business?