It seems like everybody’s talking about the “cloud” these days. It’s part of the popular lexicon and it became a buzzword very quickly.
But, the cloud still has many small business owners asking a lot of questions: What, exactly, is it? How do I get there? Is everybody moving to the cloud? How do I make the decision?
If you’re one of those still scratching your head over all things cloud, first take a look at this video. Fast Company has done an excellent job of condensing cloud computing into a quick, easy-to-understand definition.
The cloud is a virtual space where you can store, access and collaborate without hardware. You pay for only what you use, and it’s scalable up or down. Cloud services are said to be flexible and cost-effective, not to mention eco-friendly.
But the real question is, can the cloud help your small business—and if so, how? According to a recent article on wsj.com, businesses essentially outsource their computing muscle to third parties with the cloud. For small businesses that have been “in the cloud” for a few years, the news is mostly positive—substantial savings that can be put right back into the business. But, there are also some drawbacks, mostly having to do with security and a lack of control over data.
Data stored in the cloud is housed and processed in centers that can be half a world away from your business. While this allows business owners to adjust their storage up or down as their needs change, having direct control can be an issue. Which is why many are going the way of a hybrid solution: Moving partially to the cloud and at the same time, relying on some servers of their own. While this two-pronged approach can work well and mitigate risk, for small businesses, especially, it is just too costly.
In laying out the benefits of cloud computing, Yahoo Small Business goes so far as to say that… "If you haven’t considered it, you’re way behind.”
Overall, this article says businesses can expect to lower their total costs while transitioning from a fixed cost structure to a variable one (Again, you pay for only what you use.). And, whatever IT resources you have can be used for more strategic initiatives and innovation. The cloud provider—not you—is responsible for software maintenance, operations, etc. Access is a big consideration, too: It is usually through a standard web browser, which means any number of people can access at any time through any device. You’ll definitely want to read more on the six top benefits of the cloud.
Then there’s the recent survey conducted by SugarSync among businesses with fewer than 50 employees that points to five big reasons small businesses are turning to cloud file management:
- The proliferation of computing devices. The average small business owner now uses five!
- The cloud as a critical small business tool. File/folder sync and storage lead the way.
- New work styles and mobility. Collaboration and remote workers are common.
- Anytime, anywhere collaboration. Global collaboration is not atypical.
- Moving total file/folder structure. A preference for having an entire file/folder automatically stored in the cloud, as opposed to “drag and drop.”
But where there’s smoke, there are also … myths. PC Magazine says that one of the biggest myths is that small businesses are rushing to the cloud. Don’t believe the hype! the publication cautions. Check out the article here to see why.
Cloud computing can definitely help a small business reduce costs and improve efficiency, but it’s important for business owners to take data and security risks into consideration before taking the leap.
Image courtesy of samuiblue / FreeDigitalPhotos.net