Whether you’ve come across the term or not, cloud computing is so ubiquitous that chances are your business has already started using the technology.
According to CDW 2011 Cloud Computing Tracking Poll, which looked at the benefits and adoption rate of cloud technology, 73 per cent of US organizations utilize at least one cloud application, while 38 per cent have a written strategic plan for their cloud networks – perhaps the most important statistic.
While a fully realized strategic plan is not essential, understanding the technology your business is using is important if you want to maximize its efficiency and save as much cash as possible.
What is the cloud?
The cloud is synonymous with the internet. Adopting cloud computing as part of your business means that instead of using software and applications on your stand-alone PC, you are using them across a network. The potential of the cloud is immense.
Benefits of cloud technology
One of the most important facets of cloud computing for small businesses is cost savings. Many cloud applications are free to use, and a report by the Center for Public Policy Innovation found that mobile technology and cloud computing had lowered the cost of entry for smaller sized businesses. This enables smaller firms to compete with larger companies, accessing technologies and services just as sophisticated and complete.
The cloud also allows startups a much easier setup process in the early stages of their business. As the business grows you may require a dedicated server – and subsequently an IT expert – but for businesses with just a handful of employees, even the most technologically challenged can learn how to implement a few basic and essential cloud applications.
A great advantage of cloud computing is accessibility. Because your information is stored online, you are able to access it from any computer, phone, notebook or iPad – anywhere in the world. One recognizable example is Dropbox. This application takes just minutes to set up and you can freely store data or use it as a virtual workspace. Once activated, any number of employees can come together to collaborate in real-time from wherever they may be.
Another popular resource is Google’s addition to the cloudscape: Google Docs. The program consists of a suite of free and highly versatile office applications similar to Microsoft Office, without the expensive price tag. Rather than pay for expensive CRM software packed with features you’ll never use, a small business would be better served using Google Docs’ spreadsheet application, which is completely free to use.
Something to keep in mind
The cloud is an incredible force, but it still has imperfections. Many of the aspects that make cloud computing so attractive to businesses can also be a weakness if exploited. The biggest concerns at the moment revolve around reliability, privacy and security. Two well publicized and recent incidents include the PlayStation Network shutting down for several weeks after a hacking incident, and the closure of Megaupload by the US government.
Cloud computing is still in its formative years, which makes it all the more exciting when you consider what businesses can already utilize through its technologies. With a wide variety of free and inexpensive resources available to small businesses, by incorporating the cloud into your workplace you could see productivity as well as profits rise.