As cloud solutions become better understood and utilized, cloud computing is no longer the domain of large organizations, and is beginning to be embraced by small to medium sized businesses throughout the world. The benefits of moving to the cloud are wide-ranging, from financial benefits to increased security, and recent developments mean the clouds has more to offer a business than originally thought. At its basic level, cloud computing simply means a way of managing data and using applications online, however recent years have seen the development of many more cloud-based solutions (often known as “software as a service” or SaaS) that offer solutions for internal IT departments, human resources, accounting and everything in-between. Here we look at some cloud computing functions that can significantly add value to small to medium sized businesses.
Cloud-based data storage is perhaps the most significant step a small business can take towards reducing the cost of its IT infrastructure. Choosing to store data in the cloud reduces the up-front cost of buying, installing and maintaining servers for storage, an often costly and time-consuming activity. It also solves the problem of costly server storage, and a good solution provider will guarantee regular backup and recovery of systems to minimize the risk of data loss.
For those who wish to keep their business local, cloud storage doesn’t need to be in Silicon Valley or on the other side of the world; there are excellent cloud-computing IT providers all over the country. For example in Boston, cloud computing consulting firms have achieved notable success in recent years. With the continued growth of this industry, a local provider such as iCorps Technologies can assist in the reevaluation of security policies and measures.
Cloud-based office applications
Moving everyday desktop applications (for example word processors and spreadsheets) to the cloud can offer real value to small-medium businesses. Cloud-based applications generally come with a small monthly subscription fee, reducing the amount of up-front investment needed to equip all staff with access to these applications. The subscription model reduces the cost and effort involved in purchasing and keeping track of licenses (which can attract hefty fines if not done properly with traditional desktop-based applications). A cloud-based software subscription model also ensures that the software used is up-to-date. No more expensive upgrades every few years to keep up with the latest releases.
Collaboration in the Cloud
Travel and the associated expenses can often make up a large part of a small business's budget. Sometimes travel is unavoidable, however there are many instances where a good cloud-based collaboration tool can reduce the number of trips needed, or allow some work to be done prior to a trip, making time spent in meetings more focused and profitable. Businesses could do well to consider that rather than making that expensive time consuming trip from Philadelphia to Boston, cloud computing is a tool that can save time and money.
In addition to standard desktop applications, the cloud also offers a range of specialist applications that can add value to a range of small to medium sized businesses, offering access to information that would otherwise require highly skilled specialist staff to access, compile and analyze. For example, cloud-based HR solutions include a host of features to enable companies to manage their workforce. Where they add the most value is by compiling HR data to anticipate and respond to strategic business needs, enhancing the function of the HR department from service provider to corporate adviser.
These were just a few potential cloud-based solutions for small to medium businesses. Is cloud computing right for your business?