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What’s in a Cloud?


You hear so much talk about ‘the cloud’, but it’s amazing how many people don’t really get the full potential that the cloud model offers, or what it even really means. I like asking people what the cloud is. Invariably, people talk about a whole bunch of servers stored in a room somewhere ,so that businesses don’t need servers themselves. Or, it’s buying software for $49/month not $‘000s up-front. Sorry Rod, I know you don’t want people to copy Xero on the $49 price point, but that seems to have become the de facto!

The cloud is much bigger than that and the implications are far wider. Cloud, now that it’s past its infancy stage, offers entirely new ways of creating and doing business.

New businesses can begin overnight, without the need for previously large IT overheads. For example, a retailer can have their non-core activities (i.e. not the shop or the stock) up and running with Xero (managing their financial compliance), Unleashed (managing inventory), Vend (handling in-store point-of-sale), while Shopify provides an ecommerce platform.

The Cloud can also help traditional businesses transform the way they operate: reducing costs, improving cash flow, and getting money in the bank quicker, freeing management to spend more time on revenue earning activities. GeoOp does exactly this for tradies.

But, also really importantly, the Cloud gives small businesses access to business tools that were previously only the domain of large corporates. Take our product Collect for example. It provides sophisticated customer analytics, with the tools to communicate with customers through mobile (the new channel of choice) and to leverage customers’ social networks to get more customers. Large businesses are still paying other large business hundreds-of-thousands of dollars for these capabilities, which we offer small-to-medium sized retailers, for $49 a month. Plug in something like Mobi2Go and you can even order and pay from your phone, something big businesses would love to be able to offer, cheaply and securely.

The interesting point that people miss about the Cloud, is the opportunity that it offers to people to create their own Cloud business. Got a great idea for a new service that can be delivered through the internet? Just worry about building your core product and use Zendesk to efficiently manager support, Intercom to manage customer communications, Hootsuite to manage social media, and PRWeb to get the story out there. But most importantly, can you leverage your integration partners' add-on stores? And, thanks largely to hard work pioneered by Xero, there’s a ready-made physical distribution channel through ‘Cloud Integrators’. These are companies who specialise in the best apps for business and then implement them, and get them all talking to each other. Get on their radar and have a global sales team quickly set up.

So there’s actually a lot more to the cloud than paying $49 a month for some server capacity….

PS. Over half the Cloud companies mentioned are NZers!