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The Cloud – What Does It Mean for Your Business?

The Cloud, So What Does It Mean For Your Business?

You may have heard this term used in the media or by your business peers about how it lets you do this and that all while saving their business a great deal of money. In many cases the cloud does allow you business to access technology that previously was not available to small businesses all while improving efficiencies at a very reasonable cost.

Firstly before you jump in and change your entire IT setup so you can use the cloud it is important to understand exactly what the cloud is and how it can benefit your business.

So What Really Is the Cloud?

The Cloud is a general term for anything that involves delivering services over the Internet. These services are broadly divided into three categories: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Software as a Service is generally the most common used cloud service among small businesses as IaaS and PaaS are more common among larger multinational companies.

A cloud service has three distinct characteristics that differentiate it from traditional technology solutions. It is sold on demand, so only when your business uses the service; it is flexible – so you can use the service as much or as little as you want at any given time; and the service is fully managed (So you need nothing, but a computer and Internet access).

Top 5 benefits of the Cloud for your small business

1. The Cloud can reduce your IT bill. Being a small business you don’t have a large budget, nor room for errors when it comes to technology purchases. You really can only purchase what your business truly, truly needs. Also no more needing to make large upfront purchases.

2. Your business data and applications are available from any internet connected device. Using the Cloud gives your business mobility. As we increasingly use multi-devices; desktops, laptops, mobiles and tablets you no longer have the issue of having to be in the office and can truly work on the go on any device.

3. Technology scales with your business. The great thing about using the cloud for your IT needs is the fact that you can use it for 1 day or 10 years. When you purchase hardware and software, there is a set price you pay whether you use it until it breaks, or once and never again. With the cloud, the choice is there to stop using it at any time or to simply increase or reduce your usage.

4. It’s a breeze to manage. Traditionally as your business grows so do your IT requirements and this requires increased administration time by an IT technician but in the cloud it is completely managed and included in the ongoing costs. Also the many cloud based applications allow you to complete certain tasks which once required an IT technician yourself from a simple web based interface.

5. Levels the playing field between small and large businesses. Due to the scale of the cloud, technology that once was only available to very large companies is now available to home and small based business at cost effective pricing.

So with all the benefits of using the cloud what downsides can I expect?

  • You don’t actually own the cloud software, so there is always an ongoing cost (although is normally quite low)
  • Your data is stored with your cloud provider and not within your business premises.
  • Reduced flexibility as you’re limited to the features that are available from your cloud provider
  • Uptime is controlled by your cloud provider so you are at their mercy if downtime occurs. (Normally cloud providers will be able to provide better up-time then you could)

So what kind of technology can the cloud offer to help improve your business? The list of potential cloud based software applications are endless but common applications or uses include;

  • Cloud based Business Email
  • Cloud Based Backups
  • Cloud based business PBX Systems
  • Website Hosting in the cloud
  • Paperless Faxing
  • Cloud based CRM, Invoicing, Payroll and other business applications