The Internet itself has changed the way the overwhelming majority of people live their lives and do business, but it is a recent transformative technology that is making the biggest impression on business since the advent of the world wide web. Cloud computing potentially offers businesses of all sizes a world of opportunity, and as it becomes more affordable and accessible for small to medium budgets, so the technology is steadily becoming a vital part of modern commerce.
While the cloud has garnered the attention of some of the world’s biggest IT-related corporations, it arguably makes even more sense for small businesses to engage with it. Small-scale enterprises, by their very nature, need to squeeze the absolute maximum out of the resources that they have, and thus need to be run as efficiently as possible. The cloud is already making a significant impact in this respect. According to the latest study of small and mid-sized businesses by SMB Group, 92 percent are now using at least one cloud business solution, and there are plenty of obvious motivations for this cloud-based revolution.
The first obvious advantage of cloud computing over traditional IT is that it requires zero startup capital. So many small businesses flounder from the very start because of a lack of initial capital prevents them from purchasing important IT equipment, and equally in many cases it prevents businesses from being set up at all. The cloud is fantastic in this regard, given that it negates the need for outlays on expensive hardware items such as servers, being a software-based system.
In accordance with this, cloud computing also does a much better job of working with a business’ needs over time than traditional IT. One of the cloud’s major advantages is its scalability, meaning that the cloud will grow with the requirements of a business over time, in a way that is commensurate with its needs. This obviously differs significantly from traditional IT, which needs to be replaced as and when a business outgrows its usefulness, with further outgoings incurred.
Cloud computing also offers small businesses the opportunity to more efficiently deploy its resources. Cloud computing is flexible to demand spikes, with the popular security-as-a-service platform providing organisations with deployment flexibility, enabling applications to be run as part of a business’ cloud operations, or via on-site IT architecture, as required.
A recent Gartner study predicted that by 2017, CMOs will outspend CIOs on IT. Cloud computing is changing the way that IT purchasing decisions are made, making it extremely easy for even relatively untrained staff to discover, try, buy and integrate cloud technology within a company’s existing IT systems.
The simplicity and user-friendly nature of cloud systems are negating the need for organisations to hand purchasing decisions on to IT experts, which consequently frees them up to engage in other important duties within the company. This is obviously particularly valuable for small businesses who have a small number of staff, so in this respect, the cloud is really contributing to labour efficiency within small enterprises.
Every IT department in every business spends an inordinate amount of time working on stuff that most people in the organisation don’t even appreciate has ever happened. The nature of contemporary IT systems means that IT personnel spend a lot of time updating them, running security software, backing-up important data, and ensuring that the basic architecture of the system is maintained at all times.
The cloud makes this process a hell of a lot easier, and even eliminates some of these requirements completely. Cloud computing offers advantages in each of these areas, but most obviously with regard to data storage. Cloud solutions are really simplifying the data storage requirements of small businesses all over the world, as well as making access to their data quicker and more efficient.
Not all small businesses are ready to go global. But most ambitious small businesses are looking to expand. Cloud computing makes it far, far easier for companies to share important information over several locations. The days of needing back-ups and data sticks and such like to transfer data are over with the advent of the cloud, and this naturally ends all of the potential security issues concerned with these rather crude ways of transferring data.
The other concept which goes hand-in-hand with the cloud is Big Data. This zeitgeist terms can be defined as any collection of data sets that are so large and complex that processing them via traditional means becomes logistically impossible. Logistically impossible for mere human-beings, perhaps, but the cloud has made collating and analysing Big Data a much more palatable process.
Even small businesses generate Big Data, and collecting, storing, categorising and analysing this morass of information effectively can give any company a real edge over its competitors. The cloud isn’t merely the best way to approach this; it’s the only way.
Social media can no longer be looked upon as a pleasant optional extra for small businesses; it is quite simply essential to establish a social media presence in this day and age. Cloud computing can help with this process. Software-as-a-service customer relationship management tools are enabling small businesses to combine external and internal social messaging, and deliver it in an extremely speedy and convenient fashion.
Finally, far from posing security issues, cloud-based security solutions are already being recognised as superior to traditional IT. Cloud-based solutions enable small businesses to easily recognise and isolate potential threats to their systems, ensuring that company data is not exposed to them.