Mobile, social, big data, the cloud. These trends are all impacting how businesses engage with their customers, partners, and employees in order to better compete.
The problem is that you, as a head of your small business, are already juggling so many balls – making contacts, securing funding, paying suppliers and employees – all while trying to make a profit – that you don't have the time to analyse the benefits of different IT systems. Adding one more metaphorical ball to the juggling act is often too much. As such, deciding whether Google Apps, Dropbox, Microsoft 365 or a combination of all three is the best way to meet your company's current and future IT requirements is rarely a top priority.
Before you dismiss the cloud as a lot of vapor, though, listen to what three small-business people told about their experiences with it:
- "We saved over $4000 in up-front costs by moving to an entirely cloud-based solution [for e-mail, Web hosting, virus protection, and more]. We were also able to substantially reduce our power bill and the costs needed to maintain and upgrade hardware." --Bob Everett, president, Bottom-Line Consulting, a three-person firm offering various small-business services.
- "As a non-IT person, I find cloud-based applications easier to set up and use than many [computer] applications, and I don't need to rely on internal IT support as much for assistance." --Cristina Martin Greysman, executive vice president, business development, Vuzit, a six-employee software company.
- "A power surge nearly destroyed our in-house e-mail server. Had we not recovered it, a great deal of historical knowledge and valuable information would have been lost forever, not to mention the lost productivity for days or weeks. Now we have a secure, redundant, cloud e-mail system we can access anywhere, anytime, with a consistent interface, and it’s made our business stronger." --Kevin Hart, partner and founder, Hart-Boillot, a ten-employee marketing and communications agency.
Cloud technology offers both time - and money - saving benefits, which makes it a great fit for small business. As cloud computing benefits become more tangible, more small businesses are moving to the cloud. Still, as with any technology, you don’t want to jump in without proper preparation.
First, it is important to recognize that there are several fundamentally different approaches to cloud computing:
- Public cloud: The cloud infrastructure is made available to the general public or to a large industry group and is owned by an organization selling cloud services. Most commonly used services here are application-specific -- for example, Salesforce.com or Microsoft Office 365 -- and pricing is often on a simple, cost-per-seat-per-month basis.
- Private cloud: The cloud infrastructure is operated solely for one organization. It may be managed by the organization itself or by a third party, and it may exist on premises or off-premises. The latest market researces show that most IT decision makers, in SmallBusiness as well as other markets, would prefer the private option. However, the private option requires more knowledge and capabilities to manage, so getting there is a challenge for many organizations, and it is not for everyone.
Cloud computing has a lot to offer, and for small businesses with limited resources, public cloud services offer especially attractive benefits. For example, using applications in the public cloud can help address networking issues without requiring small businesses to invest in their own servers or expand their IT staff.
With public cloud services, businesses pay only for the seats or capacity they use at any given time, which is ideal for small business IT budgets. However, before making the move, small businesses need to be sure that they have a clear picture of all that the cloud entails, and then determine whether it is the right solution for them.
The cloud presents an opportunity to redefine the role IT plays in implementing a business' strategy. Because of its power to fundamentally change how businesses operate and compete, the cloud is a game changer for the enterprise.
We are able to help you to build tailored "cloud in a box" solutions that meet your business IT requirements. We can handle the contracts and billing, which means you receive a single IT invoice rather than several, making cashflow more predictable. A managed cloud service also means that you can add – or take away – account access with a simple call or email to your IT service provider, making it much easier when new employees start or others move on. Please contact us for a free meeting and site survey.