It’s 9:00 pm, you’re working on a project, and you need to collaborate with a client across the country. Cloud IT solutions called “Cloud Computing” make this possible, evolving into one of the fastest growing types of computer technology for small businesses. The benefits of this type of Software as a Service (SaaS) can be enormous.
In fact, sales of cloud computing software are anticipated to grow by 20.7% in 2011 vs. 2010, and double in sales by 2015 according to a Gartner Group estimate.
With cloud computing, the weary business owner can easily go in the cloud to share information across networks – without leaving the office or even sending an email. Cloud computing technology uses shared resources and information across computers and devices, with no special software or applets (such as Java plug-ins) required. Instead, you simply pay to access the applications that are the most useful to your small business and they are ready to be used instantly, with no installation required on your part. The program is stored in “the cloud,” which means it is hosted on the web and can be accessed by authorized users from wherever they have an internet connection.
The most common delivery method is by subscribing to a service on a per user basis. The vendor manages the application program, so you will always be running the most current version and never need to hassle with maintenance or updates, which is why it is also referred to as software as a service (SaaS). Here are five popular ways small businesses are adopting cloud computing right now:
1 – Simplified Data Storage and System Backup
As a business, secure data storage and reliable data backup is essential. Without this vital data, your business can come to a halt. Cloud computing and SaaS (Software as a Service) technology give you a new method for efficiently storing and backing up data. Cloud computing offers “file server in the cloud,” so your business no longer needs a clunky server. Instead, you can backup files directly with your cloud computing program. Plus, you get access to important files remotely…allowing you to work on the go.
2 – Increased Productivity
Better productivity translates into reduced costs and increased profits. So, it’s no wonder that cloud IT computing technology and software as a service technology is popping up all over.
For example, Google Docs is used by many small businesses because it is easy to use and improve efficiency, and best of all – it’s free. With Google Docs, you can efficiently collaborate and share documents with users anywhere in the world. Plus the application is compatible with Microsoft Office – something other cloud computing programs haven’t done yet. Also, Google offers a collaborative workspace, with features like calendars – allowing your employees to coordinate seamlessly from wherever they have an internet connection.
3 – Streamlined Communications
Strong customer relationships grow small businesses. That’s why companies are offering cloud computing and SaaS technology that help you manage those relationships better.
One such application is Salesforce.com, helping to manage your most important sales leads, customers, marketing campaigns, sales management and report compilation in the cloud. There are also programs that help you communicate with employees and clients across the country, and even the world. For example, DimDim 5.5 is a conferencing solution that handles all your video conferencing needs. You’ll not only streamline your communication, you’ll also reap the rewards of significantly reducing your travel expenses.
4 – Improved IT Support
Small businesses don’t always have IT pros on staff. Cloud computing technology helps solve this problem, with programs like Meraki WIFi Stumbler. This is an online wireless network analyzer – simple enough for any employee to use. It helps you trouble shoot potential problems, such as wireless access point issues and wireless network efficiency. Plus, there are cloud computing and software as a service programs like LogMeIn Central that allow you to connect your PC via the internet to get collaborative technical support.
5 – Automated Accounting
As a small business, keeping good financial records is a priority. Cloud computing allows you to do this with more efficiency with programs such as Outright.com. This accounting service in the cloud helps you track basic accounting needs, like expenses and tax obligations. Another program that uses cloud computing and SaaS is Bill.com. It works for simple small business tasks, like automating accounts payable.
Some Words of Caution:
- Application structure – how is the application configured to serve up data to the end users, and how will it integrate with your other systems?
- What will your bandwidth requirements be for the number of users that will be on the system at the same time? You don’t want to have speed and performance bog down.
- Data requirements – how much storage space will your business need? If your storage needs are high, so will be the cost.
- Security & liability – A survey commissioned by Ponemon Institute showed that half of respondents don’t believe their organizations have adequate technology to ensure cloud infrastructure security. Compare security measures to ensure they are at least equal to what you already have. Great care should be taken to prevent your data or that of your customers from being compromised.
Network and Technology Consulting from Great Lakes Computer
Great Lakes Computer can provide you with experienced advice and assistance for your IT projects. In addition to our own consultants on staff to meet your needs, we have an extensive network of qualified providers that we can recommend in highly specialized areas such as telecom, wiring, system selection, and network installation. Consider a consultation if you:
Will be moving your systems to a new physical location.
Need advice or assistance regarding phone systems, video conferencing, cabling or installation.
- Desire support in setting up a new application to ensure it integrates well with your current system structure.
- Would benefit from advice regarding which application packages or software to purchase.
To schedule an evaluation to determine how we can be of assistance, click here.