Craft beer is a huge business now in the United States, growing at an unprecedented clip. According to the Brewers Association, the market was worth $19.6 billion in 2014, up 22 percent from 2013. In addition, 19 percent more breweries and brewing companies have opened up in that time, with the number of total operations in the U.S. now equaling 3,464. In total small breweries employ more than 115,000 people across the nation to support this growth.

To support this market and Americans' growing desire for craft beer, breweries need a lot more than a good stout recipe. Like just about any other industry, businesses in this space require a lot of equipment and manpower to keep going, plus the support of robust IT assets. In particular, by turning to the cloud to run their IT workloads, brewers can reduce costs and improve overall efficiency to boost the bottom line. By embracing the benefits of cloud computing, breweries can expect to see the following benefits:

1) Reduced need for in-house IT staff and resources
Whether through an outsourced provider or an internal team, IT expertise is indispensable at any business, to do everything from keeping the core network running well to innovating with new practices and techniques. Many companies may be initially tempted to hire internally and purchase their own hardware, but such a move is expensive and can inhibit growth.

Consider the costs related to just obtaining everything. IT industry members can expect to bring in a yearly salary of between $82,000 and $145,000, according to Redmond Magazine. This is of course just for one person, as likely a company would need a smal​l team of IT experts to accomplish its technology goals. Throw in the costs to purchase servers, POS terminals, Wi-Fi hot spots, computers and other necessary pieces of hardware, and the costs rise even further.

Plus, over time, infrastructure will fail and need to be fixed or replaced, leading to both expensive unplanned downtime and costly repairs. Thus by going it alone when it comes to IT, breweries are assuming a lot of costs up front in addition to financial and operational risks down the road.

By instead outsourcing IT expertise to a third-party cloud service provider, breweries can gain access to the knowledge and know-how they need to keep their infrastructure and assets in top condition at all times, but at a much lower cost versus going it alone. Since cloud providers work at scale, they are able to provide a high-quality IT solution to their clients are a more affordable rate. Plus by working to keep everything running smoothly, cloud service providers can free up the time of internal teams to instead focus on more innovative efforts.

2) Decreased costs
As was mentioned in the previous point, bringing in IT resource is more often than not an expensive endeavor. For brewers in particular, because of the high costs associated with getting a business started, any extra costs incurred can be a huge drain. Starting a brewery is a capital-intensive endeavor – typically brewers should expect to raise at least $1 million or more to get an operation off the ground, according to Jacob McKean, founder of Modern Times Beer. In addition, many new businesses in this space will only see modest profits initially, with some failing to become successful financially for many years or ever.

In this kind of environment, it is imperative that breweries operate a very tight ship, spending money only when necessary. One of the benefits of cloud computing, however, is that it can help businesses significantly reduce their annual IT expenditures. According to one study conducted in 2012 and 2013 of 1,300 companies in the U.S. and the United Kingdom, 88 percent of those polled using the cloud in some capacity said the technology helped them realize cost savings. Furthermore, 56 percent of them said cloud computing boosted their companies' profits, CIO reported. For breweries, the cloud can be a relatively easy way to reduce costs and boost profitability – two key bonuses considering the capital-intensive and competitive nature of their industry.

These are just two of the many benefits of cloud computing that breweries can expect. Stay tuned for part two to hear about more key advantages the technology can offer.