Cloud computing has created a new technological revolution that has opened unprecedented opportunities for small- and mid-size businesses. Efficient logistics businesses have leveraged this technology to test and adopt solutions without having to make large capital investments or worry about potential adoption failures.
The nature of the “subscription” model used by most cloud vendors has allowed these businesses to test and implement some of the same technologies that larger organizations are using without breaking the bank.
In this article, we will discuss three cloud solutions logistics companies are using to increase productivity. For this, we based our analysis on four business productivity pillars: collaboration, ability to work from anywhere, multi-device support (desktop, tablet, and smartphone), and service availability.
Office 365 for Business
Office 365 for Business is Microsoft’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) cloud platform that provides businesses with Microsoft Office products and productivity tools in a subscription model.
The platform offers a suite of integrated solutions that allow employees to work and collaborate from anywhere. This set of solutions is capable of running across all platforms (desktop, tablet, and mobile) with a 99% financially-backed service level agreement (SLA) to guarantee service availability.
Let’s quickly walk through the most relevant Office 365 products and how they have helped efficient logistics businesses boost their productivity.
Microsoft Office: Most Office 365 plans offer the well-known suite of Office applications – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. Microsoft Office is easy to use and most people are familiar with it. The short learning curve creates an instantaneous productivity boost compared to using a different product.
Microsoft Office products run across desktop, tablets, and smartphones and offer direct integration with SharePoint, SkyDrive, and Skype Messenger. This allows employees to remain productive and collaborative from anywhere, using any device.
SharePoint Online & OneDrive for Business: SharePoint Online is a web-based document management system that allows companies to share and collaborate on documents. The system allows for granular document security (read, write, modify, delete, etc.) as well as version control (track document changes) and alerts to notify when a document has been added or modified.
SharePoint can also be used as an intranet and includes features like calendars, forms, tasks, picture libraries, video libraries, and more (see example below).
On the other hand, One Drive for Business is a simpler and easier to manage document sharing and collaboration platform. It can be accessed from any device, but it lacks the advanced security, sharing, and version control capabilities available in SharePoint.
Skype for Business: This real-time communication platform allows employees (and external participants) to communicate via messenger, voice, or video. It lets participants create their own meeting spaces where they can host collaborative team sessions in real-time.
Skype for Business can integrate with VoIP cloud phone systems, which allows users to place regular phone calls within the same application. It also integrates with existing end-to-end security controls and compliance mechanisms currently in use by most companies. Skype for Business can also run on tablets and mobile devices.
Desktop-as-a-Service & Cloud Servers
Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) and cloud servers are an excellent way to keep the workforce productive. These cloud solutions keep employees connected from anywhere in the world on any device, while at the same time keeping them protected against viruses, hackers, and data loss.
DaaS and cloud servers offer users the same computing capabilities as when they work at their desk. While DaaS offers the same functionality of a regular computer, cloud servers can also offer the same functionalities of a regular desktop plus all the benefits of a server operating system (file sharing, security, web hosting, etc.).
So how can DaaS and cloud servers help increase business productivity? Let’s examine.
Anywhere Access: With any of these solutions, employees are able to work from anywhere as long as they have basic internet connectivity. When working from any of these platforms, users will have the same experience as if they were at the office working in front of their computers. They will have access to all business applications (Word, Excel, Outlook, WMS/TMS, etc.), shared folders, printers, and anything else available at the office.
System Availability: By using desktops and servers in the cloud, logistics organizations take advantage of state-of-the-art datacenters protected against natural disasters, terrorism, and power and internet failures. Most cloud infrastructures are spread across multiple servers and network devices, so if one system fails, another is ready to take over. Desktop and cloud servers can help you increase business productivity by keeping your systems running around the clock.
Data Security & Protection: With the increased threat of viruses and hacking activity, having end-to-end security at the desktop, server, and network levels should not be ignored. Most cloud vendors offer advance security through systems like enterprise firewalls, intrusion prevention/detection systems, and advance access control mechanisms. Some cloud vendors also offer backup solutions (from basic to advance) to guarantee data recovery in case data is hijacked, corrupted, or lost.
A secure system means a business can focus on its customers and the privacy of its data. A business free of worries can concentrate on doing business.
VoIP Cloud & Unified Communications
VoIP and Unified Communications have shifted the technological landscape and taken collaboration and ease of communication to another level. Let’s explore how they can help strengthen efficient logistics organizations.
VoIP Cloud: Cloud-based Voice over IP (VoIP) telephone systems allow employees to make calls from their desk phone, computer, tablet, and smartphone.
VoIP systems don’t require a standard telephone line to make or receive phone calls. Instead, with a basic internet connection, employees can make or receive phone calls from anywhere in the world as if they were sitting in the office. This “always-on” capability helps keep employees engaged and reachable regardless of their location or the devices available to them.
Unified Communications: Unified communication is the integration of all business communications (phones, instant messenger, video conferencing, desktop sharing, etc.) in one central location.
With unified communications, users can make phone calls, initiate instant messaging, participate in video conferences, share their screens, and collaborate in documents. So no matter where an employee is or what device is at hand, they can remain productive and contribute while on the road visiting a customer or just taking a vacation.
To understand the true value of Unified Communications, see the following short video:
Large, well-funded companies are no longer the only ones with access to advance technology. Cloud computing has opened the doors for smaller businesses to leverage the same technologies and allow efficient logistics businesses a leg-up in the race towards optimum productivity.
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