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Is your small business taking advantage of all that the cloud has to offer? Mine sure is—but apparently, I’m in the minority. Only about one-third (35 percent) of small business owners use cloud technology, according to a study conducted for Microsoft last year.
This news surprised me, because there are so many ways your business can benefit from being in the cloud. Here are some of the things cloud technology has helped my company do.
- Secure your business data. Since starting my business, I’ve gone through multiple laptops, computers and mobile devices. Sometimes I just needed to upgrade; other times a hard drive crashed (always at the worst possible time). Thanks to cloud backup and storage, though, I never have to worry about transferring my data from the old device to the new one, and I can always restore my important business data when an emergency strikes.
- Go mobile. Before we began using cloud technology, my business partners and I had to email files to ourselves and each other, or remember to transfer data onto a thumb drive whenever we wanted to work at home, on the road or outside the office (which was just about every day). This was a huge hassle. Today, we store all our data in the cloud, so it’s easy to access whenever and wherever we need it. No more forgetting files or discovering too late that you don’t have the latest version of a document.
- Collaborate. Like many small businesses, my company relies on a network of freelancers and independent contractors to help with projects. Cloud technology enables us to work with contractors and clients anywhere in the world. We can share data with them, hold virtual meetings and collaborate in real time. As silly as it might sound the cloud enables me to collaborate with—myself. Using Microsoft Office 365 enables me to switch from desktop to laptop to tablet and even my smartphone, seamlessly.
- Gain expertise. When I launched my business, the thing I missed most about being an employee was having in-house IT support. My partners and I aren’t techies—but thanks to the cloud, we don’t have to be. Our cloud services providers keep up to date on the latest technology so we always have the latest versions of the tools we need—without the overhead of hiring a full-time IT expert.
- Save money. Probably the best benefit of cloud technology is how much money it saves you. In addition to saving time (which we all know is money) and cutting your IT overhead, cloud technology essentially allows you to lease instead of buying software applications. Just pay as you go: There’s no need for a big initial investment. If a product isn’t working out for you, it’s no big loss—simply stop subscribing and try something else.
Small business owners have always tried to make their companies look bigger—without spending big. Cloud technology makes that easier than ever, giving you access to enterprise-level technology without enterprise-level costs.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva. To get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.