This is a guest post by Megan Totka.
As an advocate for small businesses, I am always looking for resources and innovations that can help them to compete and succeed. While cloud computing is not a recent development – in fact, it’s actually been around for quite a while – it is something that offers increasingly viable and affordable opportunities for small businesses.
Though you may not be familiar with cloud computing, you’re probably already using it. For example, if you access your email through a service like Gmail, Yahoo! mail, and Hotmail, you are using the cloud. In essence, cloud computing involves accessing your data and applications not from your computer’s hard drive or a local server but via the Internet from the set of servers, computers, and data storage systems that make up the “cloud.”
There are, of course, potential pitfalls involved in the use of cloud computing. Concerns about privacy and security, proprietary formats, and access issues must be addressed by any company considering a significant shift to a cloud system. Yet even taking into account these potential drawbacks, I see several clear advantages to adopting cloud computing.
With the use of cloud computing comes significant decreases in hardware and software investment on the user side. For example, rather than frequently upgrading hardware to the newest and fastest versions, small businesses are able to retain older computers while the cloud system becomes responsible for upgrades in things like processing speed, storage space and online backup.
User responsibility for software purchasing and licensing is replaced by a use-based fee for access to applications via the Internet.
Innovation and scalability
These two areas are closely related to cost.
Small business cloud users can save money by not having to continually upgrade and search for the right computer systems. Meanwhile, with the cloud computing provider responsible for innovation, the user benefits from that provider’s investment in the latest technology. Scaling services up or down is also significantly easier when a user is no longer required to purchase software licenses for each user.
Ease of access
With cloud computing, users aren’t tied to a single location or computer. When the programs and data used by a small business are stored remotely, employees are able to access everything they need from any web-connected device.
Cloud computing also simplifies collaboration by making your tools and data available to authorized users located anywhere in the world.
Cloud computing offers clear advantages in cost, innovation, scalability, and flexibility. It is no wonder that many small businesses have already made the move to the cloud.
Though it is certainly worth considering potential privacy and availability issues when making a decision about adopting cloud computing, speaking with several companies that offer cloud computing services may alleviate your fears. Additionally, weighing your concerns against the opportunities and advantages offered by this technology – and remembering that you’re probably already using it – will likely make it clear that a move to cloud computing is a great step forward for your small business.