Small business owners often have big dreams. Whether that dream is to keep your business small or to grow it into a big business, you want your business to run as smoothly as possible – every step of the way. You might start your business as a sole proprietor with just a laptop and a few software programs. As your business grows and adds employees, you have to start thinking about security, backup, remote access, and coordination of effort.
One of the reasons small businesses switch to cloud-based software is to reap the benefits of big business infrastructure, without having to implement and manage it directly. Until recently, your software and servers almost always resided in your office, where they would be administered by your IT staff. This type of deployment is referred to as “on premise.” In the last several years, “cloud based” software has become more popular.
Cloud based software (also called cloud computing) enables companies to access software and servers located in a secure data center, maintained by the software provider. These free or subscriber-based services are delivered in real time over the Internet.
Your Microsoft Hotmail or Live account is an example of cloud-based email. Business users might be familiar with Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Standard Suite, which offers a subscription-based suite of Microsoft-hosted, online applications that include: Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Live Meeting, and Office Communications Online. Because applications and documents are no longer stored on your personal computer, your data is more accessible to others in your office.
Small businesses are finding the many attributes of cloud computing very attractive. Here are seven reasons why:
1. Cloud computing can improve employee productivity. Using tools like Online Exchange and SharePoint, employees can easily access documents and emails while away from the office. Many small businesses have employees working remotely, and need both mobility and flexibility. Cloud computing is a straightforward and affordable way of addressing those needs, especially when you are using intuitive, familiar software that your employees already know.
2. Cloud computing reduces upfront costs. Choosing a cloud-based solution for such things as email, document sharing, and web conferencing reduces the upfront cost associated with starting a business. There are no servers to buy. The cloud-based subscription model allows small businesses to easily increase or decrease their use of cloud services according to their needs.
3. Cloud computing boosts collaboration.Employees everywhere can access and work with the same files in real time – no more emails back and forth with attachments to open. Better collaboration improves productivity and creativity.
4. Cloud computing provides business resiliency.Numerous studies have shown that more than 50% of small businesses will go out of business within a year of a major data loss. In a cloud environment, if you lose your laptop – or worse, your whole office – you can get back to business in no time. All your business information and files are securely in place.
5. Cloud computing is easy. The transfer of business information into “the cloud” is very straightforward. No need to install new hardware or software; no IT administration. It is often seamless to the user. Saving a document to a Microsoft Sky Drive is the same process as saving it to a hard drive. No training is required.
6. Cloud computing is accessible. Offering easy access and file sharing from any Internet connection, cloud computing allows employee access via smart phone or computer.
7. Cloud computing is secure. In fact, cloud computing can be more secure than a traditional IT infrastructure. Cloud computing providers like Microsoft build multiple levels of security and redundancy into their data centers.
The great thing about cloud computing is that it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. Even if you already have servers and an IT staff, you can pick just one application that you think would be better served in the cloud. You might decide that since your sales force is remote, you’ll invest in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online to manage your sales and marketing processes – but you’ll keep your Exchange Server deployment in house. With few exceptions, a mix and match of in-house and cloud-computing software works just great!