By Rick Blaisdell
Cloud computing is without a doubt the IT trend that has brought the most benefits to small businesses. We live in a global business environment, and, up to now, small businesses had trouble competing with the big players, since they couldn’t afford to absorb the costs associated with the necessary IT capabilities.
Cloud computing has changed all that, as I have already discussed in my previous post, “Cloud Will Allow the Smallest Companies to Compete against the Largest.” And now I’d like to share with you what I think are the five key ways a small business can use the cloud to get ahead and play with the big boys.
- Communication is probably the most obvious advantage. Whether talking about e-mail, instant messaging, phone systems or video conferencing, the cloud has the answer. No more expensive phone calls to the other side of the world; voice-over IP technology means you can now direct all calls over the cloud and save up to 85 percent on phone bills. Online video conferencing means you can now “meet” clients all over the world without having to leave your office — actually, never having to leave your home if you don’t want to. Hosting your email in the cloud, with someone like Google, means massive savings on storage space, and instant messaging takes you that step further and would reduce even the need to send e-mails, replacing all communications with real-time conversation.
- File Sharing allows users to simultaneously access all digitally stored information, which could be documents, videos, computer programs, etc. This solves the problem of those pesky little (or not so little) attachments going back and forth between members of your team and clogging your e-mail system and delaying work. Also, it allows for better collaboration with clients, who can be given access to the files they need and stay in the loop while the work is being done, not just after the fact.
- Software is usually not cheap. Buying a suite like MS Office for each employee is a sizeable cost for a small business. Again, cloud has the answer, by allowing users to access business applications and collaborate online. And the good news is that many of them are free, starting with solutions like Google Apps.
- Back-up is crucial for any business, and for a small business, it could be very expensive to invest in their own back-up systems. It’s not a good idea to go without any back-up at all, of course — imagine that one morning all your business-critical data are gone, and you have no way to recover it. Again, the cloud has the answer, with quite a few cost-effective back-up solutions tailored to any requirements.
- Cloud-based CRM provides a small business with a great, cost-effective tool for the management of its relationships with clients, customers, and prospects. And a better-organized business is a more competitive business.
These are only a few of the ways a small business can benefit from the cloud, but there are others as well, each helping to level the playing field and give everyone a fighting chance in today’s increasingly competitive global market.
Rick Blaisdell is an accomplished technical and business leader and a pioneer in the cloud computing field and in delivering the next generation of business technology. Focused on results, he has implemented revolutionary solutions to cut costs and improve efficiency. He is a creative thinker and visionary in the area of cloud computing. You can read more about him on his personal website, www.rickscloud.com, or e-mail him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published: Sep 30, 2011