‘The cloud’ is a term that’s frequently used in the communication and collaboration environment, as well as the broader information technology sphere. Despite its supposed ubiquity, and much like many other digital terms such as ‘internet of things’ (IoT) or ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI), the idea of the ‘cloud’ can seem a little nebulous and difficult to grasp. When some people think of the cloud, they imagine some intangible place where information is stored and gathered. However, the cloud is more solid than you might think.
The cloud is a term used to refer to the selection of data centers around the world that allow software and services to run on the internet. This means that, as a user, you access the tools that you need through web browsers and applications, rather than downloading something locally onto your computer.
The cloud has delivered everything from software like Microsoft OneDrive, to storage services like Dropbox and Google Drive. It has also given rise to cloud communications, which are designed to help us connect via the web.
How Can People Use the Cloud?
Cloud technology offers a wide selection of beneficial applications, depending on what you need. Perhaps the most common way to use the cloud today is as a mode of flexible storage. Unlike hardware storage solutions such as hard drives and USB ports, the cloud has no limitation on how much data you can collect. What’s more, because the information is available on the internet, you can share it with other people in your business, without needing any physical device.
Cloud technology has also paved the way for ‘as a service’ solutions in the current marketplace. Thanks to the cloud, businesses can access things like contact centre technology, unified communications tools, and even collaboration services, all without downloading a piece of software. Access to the cloud means you can log into the solutions you need online and pay for only as much technology as you use.
How VoIP Works on the Cloud
VoIP, or voice over internet protocol, also relies on the cloud to transform the way we communicate. VoIP allows people to communicate by sending packets of voice and video information through internet servers on the cloud. Unlike the traditional telephone service, which connects you to your colleagues and consumers using copper wires, the VoIP landscape relies exclusively on digital connections and data.
Fortunately for businesses who have investments in the ‘plain old telephone service’ (POTS) world, you can still use typical desk phones and tools like analogue adapters to make and receive calls over VoIP. However, you can also choose to connect to your peers via mobile phones and computers. That’s because you don’t have to be wired into the public switched telephone network (PSTN). Your calls and conversations are hosted over the internet instead.
The Difference between VoIP and UCaaS
The function of VoIP is to convert voice into packets of digital information that is transmitted by software. The digital aspect enables VoIP to be a component of a more broad-encompassing system known as unified communications as a service (UCaaS). While VoIP is usually just a voice service provider, handling inbound and outbound calls, UCaaS is concerned with handling all business communications over IP. In short, VoIP is a single mode; UCaaS is multimodal. UCaaS encompasses texting, chatting, video conferencing, screen sharing and video meetings, all conducted via the cloud. The ‘voice’ part of UCaaS is conducted using VoIP.
Video calling and conferencing is currently the fastest growing business communications function. Its ability to connect geographically disparate teams or colleagues, agents and clients, or representatives and prospects, is invaluable in the age of digital transformation and the ‘always on’ culture. Similarly, many businesses are moving to incorporate high-functioning collaboration and group project management tools into their systems in order to connect their workforce and improve overall productivity. The cloud is a powerful digital infrastructure that hosts the UCaaS systems enabling this kind of decentralised connections.
Perhaps the most important aspect of a UCaaS system is its ability to integrate with third-party solutions in order to work seamlessly across multiple tools. Popular integrations include CRM tools such as Salesforce and document storage tools such as Box. The integrations between UCaaS systems and business-critical tools create a smoother workflow and save hours in productivity.
The Benefits of Moving to the Cloud
Like any disruptive technology, the cloud has been met with a combination of concern and excitement from most businesses. While cloud technology promises us bigger cost savings, greater flexibility, and more opportunities, some companies are still worried about accessing a service where they aren’t in complete control of their data. When you store your information on the cloud, it’s hosted in data centers outside of your premises, which can be a security concern to some brands. However, cloud service providers mitigate security concerns by running the latest cybersecurity software to protect all the systems they manage. Indeed, cloud capability is one of the factors that has driven cybersecurity to become an intensely rigorous, competitive and innovative discipline.
A further advantage of using cloud technology is the ability of companies to access their data whenever and wherever they need to. All you need is an internet connection and secure username and password to access the data that you need. Additionally, the cloud reduces your requirement for physical hardware, while giving you endless opportunities to scale your technology according to the changing needs of your business.
While the concept of moving to the cloud can take some getting used to at first, many companies are discovering just how beneficial this technology can be. The market share for cloud computing is expected to reach a value of $285.3 billion by the end of 2025, which indicates a great many businesses are ‘putting their money where their mouth is’ in adopting cloud-based technologies.