Andy McLoughlin is the cofounder and EVP of strategy of Huddle, a provider of cloud-based collaboration tools. Huddle is sponsoring VentureBeat’s first-ever webinar on cloud computing on Nov. 17. McLoughlin contributed this column to VentureBeat.

A day doesn’t seem to go by without a mention of cloud computing in the press: the facts and figures, pros and cons, reasons why you should or shouldn’t roll out a cloud computing initiative. Peter Sondergaard, SVP of research for Gartner, declared cloud computing one of the four big trends that will change IT in the next few years and the analyst house estimates the cloud market at $150 billion by 2013. Research house IDC estimates that companies spend $17 billion a year on cloud services worldwide at that the market will be worth $43.2 billion by 2013.

But, facts and figures, jargon and hype aside, what are the benefits of cloud computing for your business and where should you start when it comes to rolling out a cloud initiative? At Huddle, we not only provide our customers with cloud-based collaboration software, we rely on cloud computing to run the company. So, I’m only too aware of the benefits and issues that need to be considered when turning to cloud-based services. Without these services, expanding from a two person bedroom start-up to a team of more than 60 people based in London and San Francisco would have been far more challenging (and expensive!). And this leads me nicely onto one of the key benefits of cloud computing: scalability.

When you start hiring people and go from 2 people to 20 staff and then up to 60 in a relatively short space of time, having the ability to pay solely for the services you need significantly reduces your upfront costs. When it comes to which traditional on-premise apps can be put into the cloud, everything from email and word processors through to payroll, expenses, CRM, customer support and HR systems can be moved across. Everything we use at Huddle is cloud-based and of course, we use Huddle to run Huddle!

The second benefit of moving into the cloud is universal access. The enterprise as we know it is changing. People are no longer working from one office, all day every day. New mobile devices and advances in connectivity mean people can work from wherever they are. Increasingly, people are working with teams and departments located outside of their organisation. One of the advantages of cloud-based tools is that they work across the firewall. Whether you’re in your office in San Francisco, New York or London, working from your laptop or a smartphone, or working with people in difference time zones, everyone can work access the content they need.

Hand-in-hand with universal access is business continuity. Should disaster strike and your workforce, for whatever reason, not be able to get into the office, people can work from alternative locations.

The final benefit of cloud computing I’m going to cover is the fact that cloud-based tools and services are always up-to-date. Having spent a fortune on software, the last thing you want is to have to upgrade everything a year later. This is both time-consuming and expensive.

To learn more about what the cloud can do for your business and the steps you need to consider when making the transition, register for VentureBeat’s inaugural webinar series with Huddle.

VB WebinarsDon’t miss VentureBeat’s first live webinar — “Demystifying the Business Cloud” — on Nov. 17 at 11 am Pacific Time. Join VentureBeat Founder & Editor-in-Chief Matt Marshall and Huddle Co-Founder Andy McLoughlin for an in-depth discussion about migrating core business processes to the cloud. Sign up for free now. This webinar is part of a series co-hosted by Huddle, an innovative online-collaboration startup based in the UK and San Francisco.

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