In the past two decades, technology has dramatically changed the way we do business. From over-sized desktop computers to the widespread use of the Internet, companies have been scrambling to keep up with the costs and productivity gains offered by new hardware, software, and apps. Smart firms are leveraging the power of the cloud to save money, increase efficiency, and gain competitive advantages in the marketplace. Here are five strategic business reasons to use the cloud.

1. Affordability – Not long ago, many businesses relied on their own computer servers, a temperature-controlled closet or room to house them, and one or more IT staff members to maintain them. Needless to say, this was extremely costly. Cloud computing is much more affordable and doesn’t require space, physical hardware, or additional staff to use.

2. Security – A common concern among businesses about moving to the cloud is security. Because it is de-centralized, cloud computing can be one of the most secure ways to store your data. Most services in the cloud include data backups to protect against loss of your information and redundancies all over the world in case one of the servers goes down or experiences an outage. In fact, it is much more difficult to target multiple servers in the cloud than one that is being run by an individual or single business.

3. Growth – One of the most important benefits of the cloud is its extensibility. Cloud-based systems tend to be modular. As such, they can adapt quickly as your business grows. For example, consider a small business that sells t-shirts. In the past, this business would need to set up sales channels, production facilities, and inventory. With the cloud, this business can quickly create an online store, outsource production to any number of on-demand printers, and easily add items such as sweatshirts or coffee mugs to the product line. Further, companies using the cloud for document and data storage can just as easily accommodate one employee as a thousand.

4. Integration – The cloud provides an unprecedented level of integration among business tools. Chances are, your accounting system, your customer relationship management system, and your social media initiatives can all be coordinated through apps and services that exist in the cloud. For companies that sell products, functions such as e-commerce and shipping can easily be handled through online cloud applications.

5. Access and connectivity – Cloud computing provides access to critical data in real-time, from anywhere in the world, and on any device. This has led to profound shifts in productivity, as well as increases in customer engagement with a company’s products and services. Whereas traditional offices have operated from 9 a.m – 5 p.m., or retail stores have closed at 7 p.m., the cloud enables 24/7 support and engagement for both employees and customers.