Cloud technology has brought about a major change in the way in which we manage computing resources. Small businesses, in particular, benefit from the trend because it makes it easier to control their spending and yet still have access to resources that put them on a par with far larger organisations.
The cloud is fast becoming the norm in many areas, so what are some of the principal advantages that smaller companies can gain from using the technology?
1. Easy access
In the bad old days, implementing a new system meant buying the hardware to run it on and installing the software. Once it was up and running, you had to keep it up to date with the latest patches and then perhaps buy more licences as your business grew.
With cloud computing, all you need is a desktop or mobile endpoint and an internet connection and you can have almost instant access to powerful software, infrastructure and more. No need to buy a server and no need to worry about moving premises or working away from the office. Your systems are available anywhere you can get online.
2. Your flexible friend
Successful small businesses don’t stay small for long. Cloud solutions can grow with you and it’s easy to scale the operation as your company expands, allowing you to work with remote teams located anywhere in the world. Similarly, if your operation is subject to seasonal peaks in demand you can easily scale up your operation to meet them without having to pay for excess capacity all year round.
3. Safe from disaster
We all know that we need to back up our data in case there’s a problem. But it’s a bit of a chore and easy to overlook. A major benefit of the cloud is that it’s done for you. You can also set up cloud-based backup and disaster recovery solutions for your in-house software so that your data is saved automatically and instantly available, should you have to relocate following a problem.
4. Easier cost control
With traditional solutions, you generally licence software for a number of users. If you don’t use them all then your business has capital expenditure sitting on the shelf gathering dust. Similarly, if you need to expand, there may well be a lead time to acquire and install extra capacity.
With cloud systems, you can quickly adjust the number of users you have and, crucially, you only pay for the capacity that you are actually using, so you can keep your IT expenditure under control.
5. Improved collaboration
Running your systems in the cloud makes collaboration between individuals and teams far easier. Because team members can access files and documents from anywhere, it’s simple for remote workers to contribute as part of a team. There are also workflow and collaboration applications that help to track the progress of tasks and enable you to see who has contributed at each stage. Research by Salesforce in 2016 indicates that effective collaboration can boost business productivity by as much as 40 per cent.
6. Better version control
A spin-off from this improved collaboration is greater control of documents that are being worked on. In the past, they would have had to be emailed or shared via a server and it could be hard to know what had been changed or even whether you were working on the latest version.
With cloud solutions, it’s easy to ensure that everyone is working from the same version and you can track what changes have been made and by whom. This helps to avoid mistakes and improves employee job satisfaction.
7. Tighter security
Security is often the first thing people worry about when moving to the cloud, but in fact moving to a cloud-based system can make your systems safer. The software is always up to date, so there’s less of a chance that hackers will be able to exploit unpatched vulnerabilities.
Your logins can be protected by an additional layer of security such as two-factor authentication and if one of your laptops or smartphones is lost or stolen, you can easily revoke access from that device to ensure that your data stays safe.
8. Small is the new big
In the past, smaller businesses may have been restricted as to the systems they could afford. Using the cloud puts you on a level playing field with much larger organisations, allowing you to use the same software and have access to features you may not otherwise have been able to afford. The pay-as-you-go model means that you can also remain nimble enough to exploit opportunities as they arise.