When starting or running a small business having the right tools within your budget is one of the most important things that will decide if your business can survive. Just like anything, if you do not have the right tool for the job, that job becomes much harder which can cost your business.
The cloud has made it much easier to compete with larger competitors and by its very definition can scale with your business.
Before the clouds
Before the “cloud” burst on the scene a few years back, most businesses were left with choosing either inferior software or paying an exorbitant amount of money to get software designed for large organizations.
Many of the software packages had high learning curve and you generally also had to hire technology professionals to maintain or setup. This model has been in place a long time and is great business, if you own the software or work for a technology company. However for a small business owner, it made things far too costly, especially when you were a growing company and constantly having to purchase more licenses and/or more software.
Mostly cloudy, which a chance…
Many out there use the cloud and do not even realize it. Gmail, Google Apps, Facebook, etc. are all cloud based technologies.
Some of the key advantages of cloud computing are…
Reduced Cost – It is based on incremental sizes (users, storage, etc.) so it can grow with your organization and you can spend for only what you need.
Flexibility / Elastic / Scalable – Cloud can grow or shrink as needed to fit the needs. Need more resources this month for your business? Great it will expand to fit those needs! Need less next month? Fine it will shrink to what you need.
Platform Independent – Like Apple, Microsoft, Dell, Linux, Android, iPad, etc? Great it really does not matter with the cloud. In most cases you can access cloud based apps from any platform.
High Reliability – One thing that is important in any business is that you must have reliable tools. If they don’t work for whatever reason, you are stuck. By nature cloud computing is highly reliable. They are working across many resources, so if one goes down the rest keep it going.
Highly Automated – No longer do you have to hire expensive personnel or spend time worrying about maintaining software or its upgrades. This is done automatically.
There are things to think about as well…
You must have internet access to access your cloud based applications. That is generally not a problem now days, but is something to consider. If you need the ability to work “offline” then pay caution to the applications that you want.
Not all providers are created equal. When a company builds an application in the cloud, they have to build the infrastructure around it and the support mechanism for it. Make sure that when you are looking at an application that you find out more about the company. Do they have good reviews or any for that matter? How long have they been around? How do they handle support and what is the SLA (service level agreement).
Who controls your data? No matter whom the provider is you want to make sure that you can export your data if and when you decide to leave them.
There are cloud applications for every aspect of your business from phone to financial, CRM to business management. In most cases cloud applications are the best road for a small business, or business of any size. However there is no “one size fits all” in technology and you have to understand if something fits your business model.
I did a presentation for our local chapter in Austin on “Do it Yourself Technology” in which I do have some good information about cloud applications and providers. Feel free to check it out in our document vault.
Clint Eschberger is a business-minded and big-picture visionary offering multifaceted technical skills coupled with proven ability in optimizing efficiencies and articulating a well-defined path to success. Having worked in and around IT at all levels, he understands the impact that technology has on the business if not properly aligned.