Is Cloud Computing for Small Businesses?
Is Cloud Computing for Small Businesses?
Small business owners who have not already moved some services to ‘the cloud’ are probably missing out on a great opportunity to enhance their business operations as well as increase profitability. We hear about cloud computing all the time these days but it can be hard to separate the hype from the reality. There is growing evidence showing that cloud computing has caused major changes in the ways that companies do business. in its simplest terms, moving to the cloud reduces the need for big upfront expenditure when deploying new servers.
In order for business owners to take advantage of new technologies, they must first understand them. The problem is, it can be difficult to gauge the relevance of a new technology when most of the information is geared towards much larger companies.
We’ve highlighted the key issues below to help small businesses decide whether Cloud Computing might be useful for them.
What is Cloud Computing?
To understand this concept it is important to consider the changes brought about by the Internet. The Internet is just a lot of networks connected together but over the past years, the speeds at which those networks can talk to each other has increased enormously. This means that it is less and less important where a server is located and has resulted in big changes in how the Internet is used. Really, any business application that you connect to over an Internet connection could be described as a hosted or ‘cloud’ service. The way in which these remote applications are now delivered has matured greatly, leading to a wide range of cloud services now being available.
Some cloud-based applications allows you to use software and services without having to run the servers or software in-house. The provider of the hosted service runs the software and servers for you, leaving you to concentrate on what you do best. Salesforce, Google Mail and Office 365 are all examples of cloud services and there are many other smaller accounting and other business applications that now take this approach.
Benefits of Cloud Computing
As more and more businesses are relying on cloud computing services you might wonder how they can benefit your business.
- Reduced capital investment – with a cloud model, IT services are rented rather than purchased. This means that the need to buy new hardware (typically, servers and storage with enough redundancy to cope with smaller issues such as hard drive failure) is significantly reduced. This results in less capital being tied up in the business and can help drive growth
- With a cloud model, you only pay for the resources you use. This is a much better approach for most businesses who otherwise have to make educated guesses as to the demands that will be made on any servers they buy. It is often impossible for a business owner to tell whether they have made a good decision until some years later – with any mistakes resulting in costly upgrades or underused hardware. The cloud model makes it possible to align spend on IT with the actual requirements of a business at any one point in time — vital for many small businesses who often experience ups and downs.
- No hardware to look after means no IT manager. No IT Manager means lower costs. Many small businesses find themselves stuck with a couple of servers but nobody to manage them but without enough work to justify a full-time IT manager, it can be hard to justify the expenditure. The smaller IT footprint that results from moving to the cloud lets your business do the things you are good at – much better than paying staff to keep patching up old and insecure systems.
As well as the main points highlighted above there are many other benefits to using cloud computing. These include a significant and ongoing reduction in software and computer costs, improved data security through the use of built in virtual firewalls and networking and with secure off site backup using an online backup service. It’s not just increased functionality that small business sees either. Staff almost always appreciate the increased responsiveness that being able to contact a dedicated support team brings.
As cloud services continue to evolve and offer additional products and services, many business systems that currently handles in-house will soon be delivered from the cloud. Rather than thinking of a ‘big bang’ where you move everything in one go, it is often better to look at office systems on a case by case basis. This way, it becomes easier to look at the benefits (or any problems) that moving that application may bring.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
Despite the growing popularity of cloud computing and the number of companies now using these services, many business owners nor customers are still not sure whether they are right for them.
As already discussed, one of the reasons for this is the lack of information that is useful to smaller companies. It’s no good talking about reduced datacentre cooling costs when you only have a couple of servers! Nonetheless, this area of technology will continue to develop and will almost certainly become the default method of delivering many business applications within just a few years.
Business owners considering cloud computing can benefit greatly by consulting with managed service providers such as Cerberus Networks to help guide them through any transitions. Managed services providers are up-to-date with all new technology and can provide independent advice on both deploying in-house services as well as moving to hosted services – helping to make the right strategic technology decisions for your business.
Finding the right managed services provider can be hard but makes the difference between your business becoming more efficient and capable and not just left behind in a technology wilderness.
Managed services providers such as Cerberus Networks cut through the hype often associated with ‘new’ technologies and will help you position your business where you can compete with others by interacting with clients and suppliers more effectively whilst driving down the costs of IT.