There’s a lot of advice out there for small businesses, particularly in this cautious age of remote working. Sign up for this tool, hire this team member, restructure this part of your business. There’s a lot to take in, especially when you’re new to certain jargon and less technically minded.
Perhaps one of the most common and important questions you’ll be asked is whether or not your business uses cloud computing. You’ve probably asked yourself a few times how it could fit into your business, even if you don’t fully understand what it is.
In this article, we’ll outline the ways you can use cloud computing and try and help you answer the question of whether or not it’s right for your business.
Why your business should invest in the cloud
First, let’s look over some reasons why your small business should be buying into the industry hype around cloud computing.
Ease and essentialness of tools
Businesses are always looking for ways to streamline their operations without investing significant time and money into the venture.
Digital tools are the crux of many modern businesses, perhaps now more than ever that we’re all so disconnected from our colleagues. This is particularly true of cloud-based tools.
Often, one of the best ways of procuring this essential software is through a cloud solution distributor. Rather than going out and buying individual packages, you can lean on specialists such as intY, a Scan Source Company based in the UK who have extensive experience with the Microsoft cloud. This gives you access to everything you need without putting time into research that could be better spent elsewhere.
It’s also much cheaper. Whichever method of cloud computing you choose you’ll cut out non-essential costs pretty quickly. While hiring experts to manage your system might seem expensive, you’re actually eliminating the need for in-house training efforts and server costs.
Data security is a hot button issue online, from small businesses looking to protect their assets to everyday people navigating potential credit card scams.
Thankfully, cloud computing solutions offer an additional layer of security that both businesses and their customers or clients can feel assured by.
All data is stored in a central location, found in-house or within the premises of a CSP (see below for more details). Taking this approach as opposed to storing various bits of data sporadically across a number of different devices (all at varying points in their lifespan) ensures data is secure and everyone who needs to know is aware of its location. Multi-layered security through providers such as Very Good Security ensures this remotely located data has an extra layer of protection.
Cloud computing also eliminates the fear that losing one device will result in a major breach. As the data is stored remotely, a simple password change will be enough to stop someone unwanted from accessing the cloud network.
Scalability becomes easier
Small businesses don’t stay small forever. The lucky ones will grow and some, unfortunately, will falter in harsh conditions and be forced to downsize.
Should either be the case for you, cloud computing will massively streamline these efforts and take a lot of logistical headaches out of the equation.
Typically, if a small business wanted to grow, it would go out and buy new hardware, upgrade its office space and hire more staff. This isn’t just an initial cost burden, but a case of what happens if these efforts fail? What happens to all the additional hardware?
By operating with a (typically remote) cloud computing system, you never need to worry about these concerns. The cost of upscaling is simply the cost of a new user on the cloud. No additional tools, no new servers to handle increased usage. Likewise, if you need to, unfortunately, let people go, you can simply delete that user from the system.
Running a small business (particularly one in the tech sector) is often a case of keeping up with new trends and ensuring you’re not falling past more adaptable competitors.
In a sense, cloud computing is simply just one of those trends, but it can also be a brilliant tool for making your small business more compatible with the developing world.
All data stored on your cloud network will be maintained in one location. That means any update based on security or performance is automatically updated and spread throughout your network.
In a more traditional infrastructure, you would have to update each individual machine or train staff members to do it themselves. This is a costly endeavour that makes your business feel disconnected, with teammates out of line in terms of resources. Cutting out trivial tasks such as these is one of the primary benefits of the cloud.
Types of cloud computing infrastructure
Now you know a little more about cloud computing and why it’s so popular, let’s look over the ways you can integrate it with your business.
If you want to keep your data closer to home, you can approach cloud computing in this deployment form.
Hardware and data are stored at an exclusive data centre, found within the business premises (think spare offices and server rooms). In this model, the business itself is responsible for purchasing and maintaining all hardware related to the cloud computing solution. Check out this Technopedia article for more information.
Alternatively, you can deploy your cloud computing by engaging with a Cloud Service Provider.
Working with one of these providers involves storing all hardware and data off-premises at their shared data centre. Outsourcing this responsibility means the CSP will handle all related costs and maintenance issues. A great place to start for small businesses less familiar with cloud computing methods.
In short then: should small businesses be using the cloud? In our opinion, yes they should. The streamlining, cost and accessibility benefits are obvious, whichever method you use. Of course, decisions like this should always be made in line with your budget and business demands. This might be the right decision for a business moving into its first office, but one operating out of a bedroom might not find much use for the cloud.
Kayleigh Alexandra is a writer for Micro Startups, your online destination for everything startup. She’s passionate about hard-working solopreneurs and SMEs making waves in the business world. Visit the blog for your latest dose of startup and charity insights from top experts around the globe @getmicrostarted.