Cloud computing has been with us for a while now, but is becoming a better and more reliable solution for businesses of any size. It offers the smallest of businesses some of the benefits available to large firms who normally have an IT team to deal with all things techie. If, like me and many other small businesses, you have to fulfil all roles in your business, cloud computing should be one business tool that you consider essential. If you are wary of this latest advance in the revolution commonly known as the internet, understanding the basics of cloud computing should help. Cloud computing basically delivers software solutions and/or data storage capabilities to your computer via the internet. A good, and commonly used, example is the difference between using web mail or email software on your PC or laptop. The web mail version is accessible remotely, is updated remotely and stored remotely. When – or if – your computer dies the web mail will still be alive and kicking! Today, with better internet speeds and mobile solutions, cloud computing offers a whole range of opportunities – from online accounting software to secure storage of documents. So what are the mainbenefits and can everybody use them?
The Benefits of Cloud Computing
- Firstly, back to that IT team; big companies are able to afford a whole department of these types, or at the very least outsource to an independent provider. The small business sector rarely has this opportunity and many of the smallest of businesses rely on one person to do pretty much everything. Fine if you happen to be an IT expert – not so good if you regard computers with an attitude of fear and loathing. Cloud based software takes a lot of the hassle out of computing – updates don’t need to be installed, this is done remotely. Software applications aren’t stored on your PC, freeing up space and speed, and they can be accessed fromanywhere with an internet connection leaving you free to work when you have time from wherever you like.
- If you are a one person operation you’ll normally only have one or two computers. If one goes down your software is available on any other via the web. Data stored on cloud based systems is also available on any PC, and can be shared easily between co-workers. For those whose business is one that requires you to be on the move this is a major benefit. All your software and documents can be accessible as long as you can access the internet. Basic but essential tasks like producing an invoice using online accounting software mean that you can finish a job at a client’s house, produce your invoice and head off home – not via the office. It may be a small saving in time but the small savings are the ones that add up.
- Generally cloud computing solutions have a big effect on productivity. Whether you work alone or with a number of colleagues, it allows access to documents as and when they are needed or to make amendments as required. Problems over software conflicts are eliminated – if you and your colleagues (and accountant) don’t have the same software on your computers this can be a major challenge. But with cloud based applications you’ll all be working on the same system regardless of any individual PCs capabilities or limitations.
- Loss of important data can be devastating to any company. There have been frequent examples of sensitive data being stored on memory sticks and then lost on trains. This has caused huge embarrassment to many organisations, including government departments. With cloud computing, your documents are available wherever and whenever you need them. This also means that when one computer goes down – the data is not lost. This latter benefit can be crucial to the smallest of firms.
- Managing money is made much simpler by online accounting software. Data can be stored, reports produced and documents created that are accessible to you and your accountant. Again this avoids software conflicts between your system and theirs, and it can save time for both of you. That time saving translates into money saving as well – also an attractive feature for the smallest growing businesses.