Although the term “cloud” can be confusing, the concept behind it is very simple and extremely powerful when applied to small businesses. In fact, what causes much of the confusion is the fact that it can do so much. Maybe that’s why so many have a hard time wrapping their mind around it.
Just what is the Cloud?
In simple words, the cloud is a centralized online location where one can store data and access it anytime, anywhere and from any device. If you’ve ever used services from Google or Dropbox or Evernote, then you’ve used the cloud.
Clearly the clouds computing is useful then, but does it really offer advantages for small business owners? Most of the time, the answer is yes.
Most of those who have already turned to the cloud have done so because they realized it’s a hassle-free technology. You no longer need to worry about purchasing, maintaining and upgrading software and applications because they’re all provided automatically (and, in most cases, free of charge) and run remotely, without being tied to a PC.
With so many benefits, it’s no surprise that experts predict a 30% annual growth with the global cloud computing market expecting to reach $270 billion in 2020. This means that more and more individuals and small businesses will adopt cloud to store information online.
Top reasons small businesses have embraced the cloud
There are many benefits for using the cloud, but here are the top ones:
Access everything, anytime – When you have everything stored on the cloud, you can access it from any device, anywhere, any time of the day, whenever you need it. Plus, if you have employees who work from different locations, using the cloud makes it so easy to collaborate with remote employees.
Reduced costs – The cloud is a very affordable solution that lets business owners back up and access all their data online. Microsoft Office Office Home & Business 2013 costs £219.99, by comparison, Google Drive is free and it also includes several office productivity tools at no extra cost. Plus, getting your own space on the cloud where you can back up all of your devices costs less than £10 a month.
Save time - All you need is a device (PC, laptop, tablet, smart phone), a browser and an Internet connection. Everything else is automated, which means software and most applications that use the cloud automatically update themselves. In other words, they require no maintenance from you.
Easy to use – Instead of having to back up your servers manually on a daily basis (what a hassle!), with the cloud this is automated in real time.
Flexible – If your business grows, the cloud can grow as your business changes.
Popular cloud services for small businesses
There are many inexpensive and efficient cloud services you can use for your small business. Below are the most popular ones:
• Dropbox is probably the most widely-used cloud storage service that lets you store and sync files to multiple devices.
• Google Drive brings together Google’s products like documents, images, spreadsheets and more, all in one place, making it easy to collaborate with team-mates.
• OfficeTime allows you to track billable hours and generate invoices.
• Evernote, in addition to taking and sharing notes, it also allows you to store audio and video clips. Your notes are available even when you’re not connected to the Internet.
• Salesforce helps you manage customer accounts and leads.
• Ubuntu cloud is a linux cloud built for performance.
How about the risks?
Many worry about the level of security provided by the cloud. Well, if you go with a cloud service provider that makes security its number one priority and takes great measures to ensure that data is kept secure and that there is minimum downtime, then you should have no problem.
Article contributed by Alex Gavril, part of the 123-reg.co.uk blogging team.