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Understanding Cloud Computing for your Business?
In the business world at large, cloud computing quickly turned from a buzzword into a fact of everyday working life.
Many small startups, in fact, rely on cloud computing without even realizing it – online email and file sharing services are a prime example.
Cloud computing has already revolutionized the way companies store, process and manage all kinds of data forever – but many SMEs have yet to embrace its full potential.
Here we take a look at some examples of cloud computing in action, as well as some of the benefits it offers for small and medium businesses.
What is cloud computing?
Defined as “the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer” – what cloud computing essentially means to the man on the street is the ability to outsource hardware like servers and data centers, while still being able to access the data stored there from wherever you happen to be.
One example virtually everyone has had experience with is a service like Gmail – which launched, believe it or not, some 15 years ago now. In the dialup days, you could only access your emails from a dedicated computer – meaning you had to be at the office to check your work emails, or at home in front of the PC to check your personal emails.
This made the system only marginally preferable to sticking with the good old fax machine.
Now, when so many of us carry a miniature computer in the form of a smartphone with us at all times and can access our emails from whatever device we choose – whether that’s the office computer, our phone, from an internet café or Wi-Fi hotspot or via a friend’s laptop, the old system looks pretty cumbersome.
Email, of course, was just the beginning of the cloud computing revolution.
Benefits of cloud computing for SMEs and startups
Cost. The biggest benefit cloud computing offers the small business is that it provides access to world-class services without the need to invest in your own expensive hardware.
Building, running and maintaining extensive data centers is left up to a dedicated provider whose business relies on the security of their customer’s data.
This means lower IT and hardware costs.
Some startups now even do away with the need to invest in hardware altogether by allowing employees to work on their own devices – which they can do from anywhere.
Enabling remote work, allowing employees to perform their tasks from home or another country altogether, any time of the day or night, is another big benefit for businesses of every size.
Scalability is another big plus. Because there are various subscription models available, companies pay only for the computing resources they use.
Netflix used this aspect to massive success by migrating their in-house data centers to the cloud, allowing them to expand quickly and grow their customer base without having to build and maintain their own infrastructure.
For your more everyday kind of business, cloud-based software such as basic accounting packages which can be upgraded only when you need them to be is one example.
Cybersecurity is another big reason to consider moving to the cloud.
With hackers and the worms, viruses and ransomware programs they come up with getting sneakier every day, most small and medium businesses just don’t have the resources to stay ahead of the curve on their own, and can quickly become an easy target.
Large cloud service providers do, and it is in their best interest to have the very latest technologies in place.
Ease of collaboration – working on shared spreadsheets which are updated in real time, uploading files to a shared resource, allowing several users access to information at once, and being able to restrict access to only the documents and files which each user needs is another benefit.
Scheduling – imagine you run a small gym or yoga studio with a handful of trainers and teachers.
If someone is unable to make one of their regular classes for whatever reason, cloud-based scheduling allows you to send the word out that you need someone to fill in, and for everyone to get updated when the slot has been filled.
This makes the process a lot less time-consuming than having to phone up each trainer individually.
This kind of scheduling can also be used across your employees existing calendars, integrated with their email, and any productivity apps they may make use of.
As the Internet of Things gets larger and more complex, the uses and benefits of cloud computing will continue to grow too. As a small business, taking advantage now could be the smartest move you ever make.