7 Benefits of Cloud Computing for Small Business

Benefits of Cloud Computing for Small Business

Small Business Cloud Computing

Saving time and money when possible are crucial to the health of your business. Cloud software and services help you cut costs and free up your time so you can focus on doing what you do best – running your business.

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is a way of leveraging the Internet to consume software or other IT services on demand. Users share processing power, storage space, bandwidth, memory, and software.

The resources are shared and for paid services, so are the costs. Users can pay as they go and use only what they need, keeping cost to the user down.

Cloud computing is also a business model. Providers of cloud computing solutions, whether they are software, hardware, platform, or storage providers, deliver their offerings over the Internet. They don’t sell shrink-wrapped boxes containing discs or ship hardware for you to buy and install yourself. Cloud providers typically charge monthly recurring fees based on your usage.

What are the Advantages of Cloud Computing?

So why choose a cloud software application instead of a program with similar features that comes in a retail box? Why would you want to pay for hardware you don’t own or control? Consider the benefits of cloud computing.

1. Lower Initial Investment

Switching to a cloud based solution shouldn’t require you to buy new hardware or software. If you have a computer and an Internet connection, you can probably use most cloud offerings. You won’t have to hire staff to provide support.

2. Easier to Manage

Worrying about power requirements, calculating available floor space, and buying new hardware is not necessary. You won’t be responsible for maintenance or updates.

3. Flexible Terms and Pay as You Go

Many cloud-based applications are available month-to-month with no long-term contracts. You can also usually upgrade or downgrade as needed.

4. Better Scalability

Cloud computing scales to match the changing needs of your small business as it grows. You can add new user accounts, increase storage space, or implement additional features as needed.

5. Faster Deployment

You can usually be up and running much faster with cloud services. You and your team can start using the service in hours or days.Compare that with the weeks or months it often takes to plan, buy, build, and implement an in house solution.

6. Available Anywhere

Services are offered over the Internet, so you’re not limited to using a cloud application on a single computer. Access from anywhere is a big advantage for people who travel often, want to work from home, or whose organization is spread across several locations.

7. Available on Any Device

Most web-based software and cloud services are not designed exclusively for any single browser or operating system. Many can be accessed by PC, Mac, on tablets like the iPad, and through smartphones.

Disadvantages of Cloud Computing

Saving time and money are the principal benefits of cloud computing. Having the ability to work with your data from anywhere on several devices is a significant plus as well.

Disadvantages do exist, however. So consider the following potential deal-breakers.

1. Downtime

System availability is out of your hands. There are 2 types of downtime you need to worry about: scheduled downtime and unscheduled downtime.

  • Scheduled downtime might be required for routine maintenance or upgrades. Scheduled downtime is usually infrequent, announced well beforehand, and performed during nonpeak hours.
  • Unscheduled downtime, also known as an outage, is the result of a system failure or other major issue. Outages are rare, but do happen even for the larger, more established cloud providers. If your application goes down, there’s not much you can do except wait.

2. Security Issues

You’re turning over data about your business and your customers to a third party. You’re entrusting them to keep it safe. Without the proper level of security, your data could be exposed to people outside your company or accessed by a hacker.

3. Data Loss

Hardware failures, outages, improper backup practices, hackers, natural disasters, and rogue employees can all cause you to lose data. With cloud services, you’ll have to give up some control over data loss prevention procedures.

4. Integration and Customization Limitations

Some web-based software applications and cloud services are one size fits all solutions. You may want to modify a cloud app to fit your needs or integrate with your existing systems. Customization may be difficult, expensive, or impossible depending on what you’re trying to do.

Do the Pros Outweigh the Cons?

Cloud computing offers small businesses several attractive benefits. For many businesses, the benefits of cloud computing are too great to ignore.

Before you commit to any cloud services, be sure your concerns are addressed adequately. Most web-based solution providers are open about service levels, capabilities, and data security. Ask questions and walk away if you’re not satisfied with the answers you get or the response time.

With the pay as you go model there are no large, up-front investments in hardware or software licenses so your IT costs can be reduced. You or your IT staff do not have the additional burden of keeping new software or hardware updated and running. The ability to untether from your desk and access your data from anywhere using a variety of devices can be a convenience or a lifesaver.

If you’re in the market for new software or IT services and are looking to save time, money, and eliminate some common hassles take a long look at cloud solutions. Many cloud providers offer free trials or use the “freemium” model, which allows you to use some of their features free until you decide to upgrade.

What are Some Popular Cloud Applications for Small Business?

You’re probably familiar with some cloud services like Gmail and Skype. Many other cloud applications and services exist that are useful to small business owners as well. Here are some examples:

  • Harvest – If you’re sick of cumbersome time sheets, Harvest is an online time tracking, reporting, and invoicing system that can cost as little as $12 per month. Can be used over the web or with their companion iPhone app.
  • Google Apps for Business – For businesses, Google offers Google Apps for Business, a cloud office suite that includes applications for email, calendar, documents, spreadsheets, and more at a cost of $5 per month per user. Business customers get 24×7 support and additional features the free versions of these apps do not include. Besides saving money on license fees for a comparable office suite, you get all the advantages of cloud applications: access from anywhere on any computer, no costly upgrades to manage, and the ability to share or collaborate.
  • Carbonite – Several online backup services offer data storage and automatic scheduled backups of your data. Carbonite has annual flat fee pricing plans geared toward small businesses with no per gigabyte or per computer charges.
  • Zendesk – If you’re looking for a web based help desk solution to manage customer support tickets and create a searchable, self-service knowledge base for your product, Zendesk is a solid choice. Prices start at $9 per month per user for the Starter plan and go to $119 per user per month for the advanced features and capabilities of the Enterprise plan. Midrange plans are available as well.
  • QuickBooks Online – This cloud based software version of QuickBooks has many of the same features as its desktop counterpart. QuickBooks Online can be accessed through a web browser or mobile device. No software to install and no upgrades to bother with.

What Is Your Experience with Cloud Computing?

Have you moved part or all of your back office operations to the cloud? Are there any web-based software applications or services you can’t live without? Please share your experiences in the comments.

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