The concept of cloud computing is only mildly interesting in a techie kind of way, but is has recently become more important to small business owners. In fact, following a survey by IDN (International Data Corporation), 64% of small and medium sized businesses already use some form of cloud computing.
So what is cloud computing?
Cloud computing allows you to store data, systems and applications within a virtual area which is delivered to your computer (or laptop, phone, tablet etc) via the Internet. Without getting too technical, it is simply a way of using an external server to run your business. This type of service is available with a number of providers such as Amazon Web Services, Salesforce.com etc and it means that a lot of the hardware and infrastructure that was once needed to run a business is no longer required.
What does cloud computing mean for small businesses?
For small businesses, cloud computing means lower costs, more flexibility and greater accessibility and money can be saved in a number of ways. There have been some recent good news stories out in the press, including the IDC’s (International Data Corporation) survey which concluded that SME’s save between 10% and 20% of costs when they shift to cloud computing services.
How does Cloud Computing save small businesses money?
Let’s look at infrastructure. In most cases, the cloud computing providers offer storage capacity on a needs basis, whereby businesses only pay for what they use which is great for small businesses. They can increase their IT capacity without buying additional servers and small businesses can also save money on licensing costs. By accessing new software via the cloud, small businesses do not need to have an in-house version of the software that requires licensing.
In a similar way, small businesses can save on IT development, maintenance and support costs. Much of this activity would sit within the cloud, meaning that businesses simply have an interface into a system rather than a version of the system itself.
Cloud computing offers flexibility and accessibility on a number of levels, and is particularly beneficial to start-ups and fast-growing businesses. It means that they can adapt quickly to changes by adding systems and capacity very quickly via their provider, rather than having to develop or buy-in new systems. Given that you only pay for what you use in the cloud, this can go up and down according to needs.
As the services are delivered via the internet, they can be accessed globally via a connection which is good news for those wishing to expand or move premises. So, cloud computing seems to be a good thing for small businesses however it is still necessary to be cautious.
With cloud computing, businesses are trusting that their sensitive customer data will be safe with an external source and therefore, it is extremely important to take adequate care with passwords and ensure that they do not become simplified over time. Other than sensibly managing the risks, it seems that cloud computing really could leave businesses living on cloud nine!