Cloud technology is developing at a phenomenal rate and has the ability to change the way that you do business. Yet those startups that are still wary of moving to the cloud risk missing out on what it has to offer. Lucie Mitchell examines the key benefits of the cloud and why it is important to ensure it becomes a central theme in your business.
Put simply, cloud technology can save you money and time, as well as create a competitive advantage. As a small and growing business, this is obviously a huge advantage and something that simply cannot be ignored, so it’s worth finding out how cloud services can help your business grow and succeed.
What is cloud computing? The cloud gives users flexible access to software, data, and other IT services, with minimal or no upfront costs involved. All company data, including emails, calendars, files, and documents, are stored in the cloud, rather than on-site servers, and can be accessed through an internet browser from any device, in any location. Cloud services are typically pay-as-you-go and eliminate the need to buy, install, and run software or hardware. Cloud providers are responsible for maintaining and upgrading the service, leaving you free to focus on running your business.
Software-as-a-Service (Saas), one of the most popular cloud-based services, is a subscription-based application, with examples including Dropbox, Salesforce, Google Apps, and QuickBooks.What are the benefits of the cloud? One of the biggest advantages of moving to the cloud is cost savings.
According to a 2012 European Commission report, 80% of organizations could potentially cut their costs by around 10-20% by adopting cloud technology. All you need is a computer and an internet connection and you can immediately take advantage of what the cloud has to offer.
Most SaaS applications are paid for on a monthly basis with no long-term contracts, so small businesses can include them as part of their operating costs, rather than having to use capital to buy and install expensive equipment or software – and pay IT staff to manage it all. This is extremely important for small firms that need to stay as lean as possible.
Thanks to the cloud, applications such as sales management and CRM, that would have previously been cost-prohibitive, are now available to even the smallest of businesses. This enables startups to compete with not only other small businesses but the big guys too, as you will have access to the same technology as larger competitors, without the huge upfront costs.
This, in turn, will help you to become more agile, innovative and adaptable. Another huge benefit of cloud technology is accessibility. As your data is stored in a secure, remote location, you can access your files and data from your mobile, laptop, computer or tablet anytime you want, from any location with an internet connection.
This is a big plus for business owners who travel frequently or work from home. This ease of accessibility also supports collaboration; with documents stored online, team members can work together on the same documents, no matter where in the world they are located, which can boost productivity and efficiency.
The cloud gives you access to the latest technology as applications are updated regularly, so you always have the newest version. It also means there is no need to replace out-of-date programs, saving you both time and money, as well as enabling you to stay up-to-date and react quickly to change. Cloud computing also offers scalability and flexibility as you only pay for what you need or use.
If your business grows, you can easily add more storage space, additional licenses, and so on; or if circumstances change and you need less, you can scale down and pay less. People often have concerns over the security of storing sensitive business data in the cloud. A recent FSB study revealed that almost 40% of businesses that are not yet using the cloud are skeptical of it due to security fears, with the biggest concern being data theft or loss.
Whilst it is obviously wise to be vigilant when choosing to store sensitive data online, in some circumstances it could actually be more secure in the cloud. For example, if you store all your data on your laptop, you could easily lose everything if it is stolen, lost, or damaged. Yet when all data is stored in the cloud, it has been saved remotely and is safe.
Large cloud providers are also able to offer greater levels of security than a small business could usually afford when using your own servers. In the cloud, your data is stored in huge server units with multi-layered security walls and is maintained by service providers with security expertise.
Is the cloud for you? Whilst cloud computing offers small firms a number of exciting benefits, every company has different needs, so you need to ensure you choose the right cloud applications for your business.
Ask what the cloud service provider can do to help your business so that you are clear on exactly how you can leverage the power of the cloud.