The Cloud refers to a centralized location on the Internet that stores data, making it accessible anytime, anywhere, from any device. Small businesses have embraced the Cloud because it has a number of benefits, including:
- Reduced Cost - Using the Cloud over physical file storage can save a significant amount of money.
- Ease of Use - Saving and accessing files on the Cloud is easy, making it an attractive option, even for non-technical small business owners.
- Flexibility - The Cloud, and the way you use it, can grow and change as your business needs grow and change.
- Automation - Instead of having to invest in IT support to keep your file storage system updated and maintained, most applications that use the Cloud automatically update themselves.
Of course, there are also negatives to using the Cloud. Security of data stored in the Cloud and loss of complete control over that data are serious concerns, for example. However, there are ways to protect your data to ensure it remains accessible and secure at all times. In most cases, the benefits far outweigh the risks for small business owners.
Here are some of the ways small businesses can use the Cloud. Review this list and how it applies to your business as you explore how the Cloud can help you use technology to do more with less.
1. Data Backup
As a small business owner, you are probably already aware of the importance of backing up your data so you don't lose everything in the case of a systems failure or other disaster. The Cloud not only simplifies the process by allowing your data to automatically update as you work, but it also creates copies of your data off-site where it will be safe from any local natural disaster, theft or malfunction.
2. Mobile Working
One of the great benefits of technology is the ability for small business owners to create fully functional mobile offices. The Cloud fits in perfectly with this because it allows you to access and sync your data from wherever you are, essentially allowing you to take your office with you on the road.
3. Information Sharing
Whether you have in-house staff or a team spread across a distance, the Cloud makes sharing data effortless. Once you have your data backed up, sharing files can be as easy as sending a link, eliminating the cumbersome process of emailing large files or saving copies on drives that are then mailed.
4. File Storage
Many small businesses are using images, audio and video to enhance their marketing activities. These files often take up a significant part of your hard drive space, which can be costly. The Cloud allows you to shift the storage of large files off of your local system, saving local storage for the files you need to access every day.
5. Growth Planning
The Cloud is scalable, so it allows small businesses to create a plan for growth that utilizes the benefits of the Cloud without a significant up-front investment. You can start small, and gradually increase your usage over time, while only paying incrementally for the services and access you need. The Cloud is also self-managed by the apps that provide the services, so you can eliminate or at least reduce the need for an in-house IT staff to manage your technology.
Small business owners who want to reduce costs without sacrificing their ability to do business and compete with larger companies are using the Cloud. If you are ready to put the Cloud to work for your business, you can start small so you can see the benefits without making major changes to your operations. Over time, you will discover news ways to use and benefit from the Cloud.