When I worked at Apple, my customers constantly asked me to explain what the cloud was. They’d seen “iCloud” on their devices and didn’t truly understand what it was for, what it did, or where the cloud actually was.
In all fairness, I don’t think the big tech companies that made cloud computing a reality for the everyday consumer did a great job explaining what it is. Well, that’s what I’m here for. I’ll give you the rundown of everything you need to know about the cloud and its advantages for small businesses.
• Data security
• Remote access
• Little to no maintenance
• Reduced IT costs
• Disaster recovery
Overview: What is cloud computing?
The cloud. This mysterious realm where all of our data seems to live. Some people don’t understand it, while others fear it. But what is “the cloud” really? Simply put, cloud computing is a method for remotely hosting and storing files, and running programs on third party hardware over the internet.
Instead of storing your files on your own phone or personal computer, these files are stored in large data centers you can access anywhere in the world at any time.
This concept has even extended into newer ideas like cloud-based gaming where third party cloud servers and computers stream gaming capabilities to your computer via the internet. Incredible, right?
However, for this article, we’re gonna focus on cloud technology as it pertains to small businesses, because this has changed the way we do business forever.
Now, you might be wondering why you should transition to the cloud when your mid-2010 PCs and simple little in-office servers have done just fine until this point. Not to worry, I’ve listed seven distinct benefits of cloud computing you’ll want to consider for your small business.
It’s time to take that leap into the future!
7 benefits of cloud computing for small businesses
Here are the benefits cloud computing offers small businesses.
Benefit 1: Data security
Contrary to popular belief, using a cloud platform is a very secure method for storing your data and operating your business. While perhaps no one will take your security as seriously as you, intention and practical ability are two completely different things.
The number of cybersecurity threats out there are only increasing with every passing year, especially in the wake of COVID-19, and it’s difficult to manage your own data security without substantial resources.
Companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, and other major corporations that deal in cloud technology, either through Software as a Service (SaaS) or Platform as a Service (PaaS), have the resources to mitigate, detect, and eliminate cybersecurity threats better than most small businesses do.
They are constantly researching new threats, developing new encryption solutions, and always monitoring for potential intrusions into their systems, which are all meant to keep your data safe and secure.
Instead of constantly updating your own data server hardware, worrying about encryption, monitoring network traffic, and maintaining all of your software updates, you can leave these concerns to your cloud provider.
Unless you’ve already hired a crack IT and cybersecurity team that knows your network structure and data policies inside and out, you’ll never be able to keep up with a specialized corporate data security team.
So, instead of funneling tons of money dealing with physical data storage, server maintenance, and security, it is highly beneficial to rely on cloud computing for data protection.
Benefit 2: Remote access
Your email account is the perfect analogy for cloud computing. You can access your centralized email account from any computer if you have your login credentials and an internet connection. This convenience is what makes cloud computing so enticing for many businesses.
Rather than leave work behind on a desktop computer or some local area network (LAN) server that isn’t connected to the internet, the cloud allows you and your employees to access your work from anywhere in the world.
This remote access leads to improved productivity and flexibility with your workspace. Chances are if you work in a white collar environment, you’re taking advantage of cloud computing while working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cloud computing makes everyday business operations possible from anywhere, so you don’t have to worry about pandemics, floods, office fires, or giant tornadoes that wipe your office off the face of the map. So long as your data is stored in the cloud, it is accessible.
Benefit 3: Little to no maintenance
Remember what I said about the security aspect of cloud computing? Well, part of that security requires regular maintenance of servers, software updates, and network management. Luckily, cloud computing takes all of that maintenance off your plate and leaves it in the hands of trained professionals.
You don’t have to worry about buying up-to-date equipment every three to four years because none of it is hosted by you. You don’t have to deal with any of that maintenance, which frees up additional time for your company to focus on the product or service it provides.
This is the peace of mind you need, especially if your company is just getting off the ground and you don’t have the manpower to deal with extensive equipment updates.
Benefit 4: Reduced IT costs
While I wouldn’t recommend that you eschew an IT team altogether, the demands on that team are far lighter when you move most of your operations to the cloud.
As I mentioned before, there is far less maintenance involved with cloud computing since you won’t have any data servers or other typical physical IT needs (outside of your standard office networking needs).
This means you won’t need a large IT team, nor will they have to occupy their time dealing with the logistics, upkeep, and protection of onsite hosting and data storage.
Benefit 5: Disaster recovery
Downtime is never good for a company. All it means is wasted money and lost productivity. Luckily, operating in the cloud will give you peace of mind when disaster strikes.
I mentioned before that no matter if your office burns to the ground or is swept away to Munchkin Land by a tornado, you’ll still have access to your data since all of it is stored remotely on third-party servers. Regardless of the disaster or setback, cloud applications will give your company a sense of resilience against the elements.
Benefit 6: Collaboration and transparency
Remember the old days of sharing versions of a document over email and not knowing what was being changed and when? Remember when those processes would lead to duplications of effort since no one but the immediate user could view and edit those documents?
All of that is in the past thanks to cloud computing. Cloud computing improves team collaboration and transparency of work between teams. No matter if you’re dealing with sales strategy or lead management, cloud computing will give you the power to share this information with everyone on your teams in real time.
A great example of this is the Google Doc I am writing this article on. I write the content here, my editor can then go into this same online document and make any changes they think are necessary, then pass along this same link to the publishing team to input the content into our content management system.
While this is happening I can pop back into the document to check on the progress of the edits and respond to questions in real time, and why? Cloud computing! This document lives on the internet and anyone with the right credentials can access it.
This is much easier than the old days of shuffling around Word documents over email.
Benefit 7: Scalability
Hosting your own data locally on your own servers is not only expensive and time-consuming, but it also takes up precious office space I bet is better served as additional desk space or even backup storage.
Not only that, but every time your operation grows, so must your locally hosted infrastructure with it, which only adds to the cost, hassle, and encroached space. This creates a scalability problem.
Cloud computing eliminates these challenges due to its simple scalability. The infrastructure is already built for you at some remote data center and you have only to negotiate more space with your third-party host.
No need to buy more equipment or plot out where you’ll put new servers and how to power it all. It’s as easy as clicking and growing.
Did you know most new software companies operate in the cloud?
That’s right. Licensed, one-time purchase software is becoming a relic of the past as most new (and established) software companies move over to a subscription oriented, cloud-based software system.
This means you get these new features and benefits you otherwise wouldn’t have using a ten year old crm software solution or project management software.
If you’re in the market for a new software solution and want to know which tool is right for you, check out all of our detailed reviews here on The Blueprint.