As technology evolves, small business owners need to stay up to date with technological trends that can help improve how their businesses operate. As businesses grow, their technology will need to improve to streamline processes and maximize potential. Most small businesses, however, simply do not have the budget for enterprise software. This is where the cloud comes in. The cloud can help fill in the gap as small businesses try to scale.
You may have heard of the “cloud,” but what is it really? The cloud is not a physical object, but rather (like the internet) is a network of servers, each with its own particular function. Cloud computing allows owners the ability to utilize a broad set of tools such as storage, processing, and analytics, while keeping costs low.
Cloud services provide several benefits to any business:
Cloud services are generally easier and cheaper to use than their traditional hard-wired enterprise counterparts. Businesses are now able to do more with less by maximizing the power of the internet. At the end of the day, savings can come in the form of less expensive equipment (and in turn less installation and maintenance costs), lower power usage, and easier upgrades.
Cloud services allow small businesses to operate more efficiently by allowing users to collaborate more easily. The cloud provides the flexibility to save and access various files from any device in any place at any time. Multiple users can edit a document and review revisions. Employers can better manage employees as they can limit what employees have access to and monitor progress on assignments.
Arguably the best part of utilizing cloud services is the ability to integrate it with other cloud-based providers. That means that information from one cloud service can theoretically output to other cloud services. For example, a customer relationship management (CRM) platform can integrate with an accounting platform that can then integrate with a payroll platform. Greater integration allows small business owners the freedom to focus on other areas of their business.
Because information is stored in the cloud and not on-site at the location of the business, there is less risk if something happens at the location of the business. Most cloud services offer encryption and other cybersecurity options as part of their business solutions. In addition, the ability to back-up data and store it virtually protects businesses in the event of a power surge, natural disaster, or other unforeseen catastrophe.
Here are some of the different ways you can transition to the cloud:
- Design: Adobe Creative Cloud
- Office Productivity: Google Apps, Microsoft Online
- Storage: Google Drive, Dropbox, Box
- Accounting: Intuit Quickbooks, Xero, NetSuite
- Infrastructure: Amazon Web Services***
*** For more tech-heavy businesses, Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides a wealth of cloud computing services. AWS defines cloud computing as “the on-demand delivery of IT resources and applications via the Internet with pay-as-you-go pricing.” AWS provides solutions that cater to specific industries as well as products such as infrastructure services and developer tools. CIO.com provides a great guide to setting up AWS for your small business.