By now, it’s clear: Cloud computing isn’t going anywhere. In fact, recent surveys indicate that just about 90 percent of all companies are using some form of cloud service, most often for storage. However, some small businesses are still hesitant to make the leap to the cloud, for various reasons. Security concerns are at the forefront of most entrepreneur’s minds; the consequences of a security breach can be devastating to a small business, so many simply opt to keep all functions in-house. Cost, fears of downtime, and confusion about how to integrate cloud systems with existing systems have also been listed as concerns among those hesitant to move to the cloud.
While moving with caution is always a good idea, we’ve reached a point where the benefits of cloud computing far outweigh the risks, and small-business owners might just find that the cloud holds the key to reaching their goals for growth moving forward.
What the Cloud Does for Small Businesses
Cloud computing presents a number of significant advantages for small businesses, providing them with access to tools that previously were reserved for larger organizations with deeper pockets. More specifically, cloud computing offers:
Access to Top Talent. Over the last decade, we’ve seen the notion of “the office” expand to include just about anywhere that one can access the Internet. With cloud services that allow workers to access company networks, files, and data from anywhere they happen to be, small businesses have the opportunity to attract top talent from outside their immediate geographic area. With an expanded talent pool, businesses can hire individuals with top-notch skills and create a team that takes the company to the next level, instead of settling for the best local candidate.
Greater Flexibility. Not only does the cloud offer greater flexibility in working hours and location, it also provides greater technological flexibility. When you only have in-house servers, it’s easy to outgrow them and experience slowdowns and downtime. When you work in the cloud, you have access to more bandwidth and potential for expansion immediately. You will have to pay for it, of course, but it’s decidedly less expensive than expanding your network on your own.
Better Security. Small businesses often lack the capability (or budgets) required to maintain the most advanced security protocols. Cloud service providers offer managed security as part of the contract, allowing you to focus more on running your business and less on keeping out cyber criminals. In addition, service providers handle the often cumbersome process of installing patches and updates, giving you back several hours per month to focus on other priorities while still maintaining security.
Reduced Costs. Keeping expenses in check is always a concern for small businesses, and relying on the cloud is one way to reduce overhead while maintaining — or even improving — service. The cloud reduces the need to purchase and maintain expensive equipment, and as prices for storage and bandwidth have been dropping steadily, the cost benefits of the cloud will soon be too significant to ignore.
Improved Disaster Recovery. No one ever wants to think about disasters, but if you don’t have a plan to recover in the event of a natural or man-made disaster, it could be devastating to your business. When your data storage and vital functions are in the cloud, you can be back up and running in a matter of hours, rather than days or weeks.
Points to Consider
Even with all of the benefits of cloud computing to small business, there are still a few important points to consider before you make the switch.
First, while the cloud does present some cost advantages, that doesn’t mean that you can’t run up some hefty bills. Provider pricing models differ, and it’s important to review the entire contract carefully before signing up. For example, you might find yourself facing hefty excess bandwidth usage charges should you experience a surge in traffic due to a viral post. Be sure that you understand exactly what you get for the monthly fee, and that all charges are outlined in advance.
Policy development is another potential stumbling block for businesses making the shift to the cloud. Cloud computing allows more flexible access, but that doesn’t mean you can allow a free-for-all. As you make the shift to a virtual environment, it’s important to develop comprehensive policies regarding access, acceptable use, and permissions.
Cloud computing is a valuable tool for small businesses that want to grow and expand in 2015 and beyond. Don’t let misconceptions about the cost and security keep you from exploring your options.