Three new ways your business will use the cloud this year

on January 2, 2017

The cloud.

Yes, we get it.  After years of hearing “cloud, cloud, cloud” from our IT consultants and tech geeks it’s sinking in.  We see that cloud-based applications perform well.  They’re secure.  They’re easy to access.  They can be updated faster and supported better by the software developers that make them.  The cloud is for real and we’re just getting started.  Tomorrow’s cloud-based resources – from Microsoft Office 365 to SQL Server – will connect inanimate objects together, automatically perform tasks and make our lives easier.

For most small business owners like me, the cloud has helped us save files, communicate with our customers, collaborate with our employees and has enabled us to order, invoice, collect cash and monitor our companies from wherever we happen to be at any given time.  That’s old news.  So what’s new?  What are three new ways that we’ll be using the cloud in this year? Consider these ideas:

1 – We will be streaming way, way more.

Facebook Live has exploded on the scene with the Chewbacca Mom’s famous video that’s now been viewed more than 150 million times.  But Facebook Live isn’t the only video streaming platform in town.  Twitter’s Periscope applications have also seen enormous growth in just the past few years and are poised to also explode this year and next. Additionally, Microsoft’s Azure Media Services offers broadcast-quality video streaming that allows businesses to reach larger audiences across mobile devices, with features that enhance accessibility, distribution, and scalability. Large companies are now using these video streaming platforms to deliver – through the cloud – all sorts of content to engage and enlighten their communities about their products and services.  Small businesses like mine are doing live broadcasts to help train our clients and provide better information about the products we sell.  These cloud-based applications are like free TV stations for any business willing to take advantage of them.

2 – We will be eliminating overhead.

As cloud-based automation tools grow in popularity, many tedious data entry tasks will be taken care of automatically, giving your employees time to focus on more important tasks. Office 365customers are also seeing increased productivity and less overhead thanks to tools like the chat-based Microsoft Teams and Planner, which increase collaboration without increasing overhead. Microsoft Flow also helps customers create automated workflows between their apps and services to get notifications, synchronize files, collect data, and more. Smart business owners know that the key to growth in good times and survival in bad times is keeping overhead low.  Automation applications are doing just that using the cloud.

3 – We’ll get information wherever and whenever.

Getting those reports automatically emailed to you as a PDF attachment?  Proud of yourself?  Well, welcome to 2005.  That’s old school!  Cloud-based reporting applications – like Microsoft Power BI – are also exploding with popularity. Power BI is a suite of business analytics tools that analyze your company’s data and share insights that allow you to monitor your business and get answers quickly on dashboards available on all your devices. In a cloud-based world, data is more readily available and accessed – and way easier than if the data was stuck on millions of individual servers and desktop PCs around the world.  So now that the data is easier to access, cloud-based reporting applications can find that information, marry it with other cloud-based information, and deliver a whole new generation of reports using data from all sorts of different sources.  Say goodbye to the old reporting system and get ready to get customer data not only from your accounting system, but from social media sites, consumer databases and other resources immediately and on your smartphone.

Those are just three new ways you’ll be using the cloud very, very soon.  Get ready for a much better world.

This article originally appeared on the Microsoft Enterprise blog.