Cloud computing has been a buzzword for a while now, but what does it mean.
More importantly, what does it mean to small business owners and what are the benefits to these businesses?
Cutting through the jargon, ‘the cloud’ simply refers to applications and services that are accessed through the internet.
In doing so, both the application and the data do not live on your computer but are stored on the internet, or cloud.
Some might not be familiar with the term, but the cloud is not new and most of us use it daily.
Gmail or Hotmail, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and online banking are all examples of how we access these cloud services daily.
So what does this mean for small businesses?
I want to focus on these simple benefits and how it could assist you to run your business better.
One of the best ways cloud applications and services can positively impact small business owners is by eliminating the need for software installations and upgrades.
These are taken care of by the service provider.
This means that you do not have to sit for hours on end trying to reinstall or upgrade an application or spend money paying someone to do it.
As the service is hosted in the cloud, small business owners do not have to lay out capital to buy servers and software.
These are provided as part of the cloud service.
The “software as a service” (SaaS) model means you pay for the service.
You do not pay for the software, and you do not have to supply the hardware.
It also means you can scale up to more users or reduce the number as your business requirements fluctuate.
ON THE GO
When your applications and data are stored in the cloud, you can work from anywhere with an internet connection.
This means that your business can become completely flexible and mobile.
You would be able to use those 20 minutes in-between meetings in a coffee shop, or you could use it to capture customer details into your systems or process the online payroll without having to physically be in the office. Essentially this means that you can access your server from anywhere in the world.
Many cloud services include backup.
Your data is stored in the cloud over multiple servers with great backup and redundancy built in.
By storing you data in this way, you eliminate the hassle of backing up to a local hard drive.
This is great for business continuity and peace of mind.
GET SOME FREE
Many cloud services offer ‘freemium’ models.
This means that the basic elements of the application are free. However, as your requirements grow more complex, you will need to pay.
This type of service provides an excellent platform for business owners to do trials of the products with very little effort and time needed.
No installations, no new servers and no financial commitment is required.
There are a multitude of cloud services available for any aspect of your business.
The best way to find a cloud service that is suitable for your business is to search online and read reviews.
You can also ask around and most importantly, give these services a try.
- Paul Hobden is the head of small business at MWEB. He has extensive local and international management experience. Go to www.mweb.co.za/entrepreneur for more information.