More and more small business owners are moving to cloud computing to expand their business. Even small brick and mortar shops now have some kind of internet presence, whether it is a simple website, a daily blog, or a full service online shopping venue. Moving to the internet attracts new business, and greatly increases customer service opportunities. But even a small business can incur hefty costs when moving online. The overhead costs in hardware alone can be daunting, and then there is the software and IT man hours to consider. Smaller businesses looking to take their place on the web, while keeping their networking costs down, may find that the answer lies in a cloud.
What Is Cloud Computing?
The idea of Cloud Computing has been around for years, and until recently has gotten little attention outside of the computer and IT industry itself. But, as Cloud technology has begun to be put to use in more and more consumer based services, it has taken a firmer hold in the public consciousness. While people may still be vague on the specifics, they see it’s daily use in video and audio streaming, email services and file transfer and storage. If, for example, you are using an online data storage service to back up important files as a guarantee against possible loss or corruption, you are using Cloud technology. When you stream an audio file, or use video conferencing, you are accessing the Cloud.
At it’s most basic, the Cloud is the term given to internet based applications and services where the vital information is stored on a network of servers known as a data center, as opposed to being stored on one remote dedicated server. In effect, software applications and information are accessible from any location, through any internet connection. This allows businesses, both large and small, to access software applications, store information, transfer files and funnel communications all through a network of advanced servers without the need to build and maintain a remote server of their own.
Is the Cloud Right For Your Small Business?
In many ways Cloud Computing is ideal for smaller businesses looking to take their place on the internet. Large information based companies routinely use Cloud-based technology for both data storage and information retrieval, and increasingly for redundancy protocols to back-up their own servers in case of a critical shutdown. But small businesses can use Cloud technology to avoid the costs of installing and maintaining a dedicated on-site server of their own. They can use the Cloud to access their software, for storage and for general web hosting. All that is needed is an internet connection and a web browser. This eliminates the need for an in-house IT department, as well as greatly reducing overhead costs by reducing the need for hardware.
Storing a company’s files and information on a cloud-based service allows employee access from any computer or internet enabled hand held device. For companies with salesmen in the field, or employees who work from home, the benefits of cloud-based computing becomes obvious. Wherever your employees are, they can access all of their necessary files and applications through the cloud, increasing both flexibility and productivity.
What to Consider When Moving to the Cloud
When choosing a cloud service provider it is important to make sure they can not only provide your business with everything you need for your initial start up, but can also offer additional services as your business grows. Also, be sure they have adequate redundancies in place to protect your information and files, as well as the information and communication records of your customers.
Companies who are moving their business to the cloud will want to start small. Working with cloud-based computing services can take some getting used to, and beginning with one or two basic services will let your staff familiarize themselves with the new operating procedures and gain confidence with the new work environment. As your employees become more adept and comfortable with the cloud computing model, you can begin to add more extensive services. As your business grows, and you discover the distinct advantages of cloud computing, you will find yourself moving more and more of your computer networking activities to the Cloud.