Cloud computing: Why small businesses should be making the switch

A guide to helping you understand what cloud computing is, and why you should be using it.

“Cloud computing” has become a bit of a buzzword recently, particularly for companies which store most of their data digitally. We’ve provided a guide to help you understand what it is, and why you should be using it.

What is cloud computing?

Simply put, cloud computing is computing on the internet. Rather than installing programs on a computer, for example, people can run applications directly from a website. This principle also applies to storage of data; rather than keeping folders full of important work on your own PC, it can be stored remotely online “in the cloud” – this means in a server which you can access from any computer regardless of where you are.

Why should you be using it?

Cloud computing and storage has a huge number of benefits for small businesses – as well as being more efficient, it also gives you a little protection if the worst happens and you lose access to the files on your computer. These are some of the top benefits of implementing a cloud-based system:

  • Flexibility: Cloud computing allows you to store as much or as little data as you need to, usually charging on a pay-as-you-go basis. This means that you don’t need to upgrade your own hardware, and allows you to keep saving and working without worrying about limitations. The vast number of servers involved in a cloud system also means that bandwidth requirements can be increased on demand, so you don’t have to wait around to gain more space.
  • Shared access: For small companies with two or more people sharing responsibilities, it’s sometimes necessary for everybody to be able to access data. By storing information in the cloud, everybody can see and make changes to files from their own workstations. This encourages collaboration and transparency, as everybody can stay in the loop and communicate changes easily without having to constantly send files back and forth.
  • Security: If your files are stored on your laptop and your laptop is broken or lost, it might be impossible to retrieve the programs and data on the hard drive – a problem that can have serious monetary consequences. By storing work in the cloud, you can simply connect from a different computer to continue accessing that information. Most dedicated data centres will have guarantees in place so that, in the unlikely event that something does affect your service, you can claim for loss of earnings in that time.
  • Disaster recovery: By storing your data in the cloud you no longer have the need for complex recovery plans should you suffer a systems failure. A recent study by the Aberdeen Group actually showed that businesses which used cloud computing were able to resolve major issues in an average time of 2.1 hours – four times faster than companies using traditional computing systems. This efficiency really gives small businesses the upper hand, as large companies are still scrambling to implement effective disaster recovery plans.
  • Automatic updates: Your service provider will do all of the maintenance for you, ensuring that both hardware and software is optimised. This ensures you have reliable, professional attention for your application systems and storage solutions, and frees up your time to focus on more important things than update management!

What can I do in the cloud?

There are a vast number of tasks that can be carried out through cloud-based computing – everything from data storage, to accounting, to card payment processing. You want to make sure that a service fits your company, so look out for a package that encompasses several things you might need. These are the major services you can expect to have access to through a cloud computing company:

  • Networking: Cloud-based networking allows you to operate without laying out extensive hardware equipment. Instead, all connected computers can connect to the same remote server in a way that is simple to set up.
  • Hosting: Many cloud service providers offer hosting packages, which allow you to keep your IT system on a reliable and secure server saving your whole infrastructure from going down if you have a systems failure.
  • Data: Storing your data remotely is one of the biggest uses for cloud-based computing, and ensures that your files are stored in a place that is accessible at any time, from any computer.
  • Communications: You might find some service providers which offer dedicated communications applications, similar to Skype, but hosted on a dedicated server and with professional support.

Whether you have a team of people to support, or simply want to make the link between your work PC and your home office smoother, there are plenty of great cloud services out there to suit your company. Start researching today, and see how much it could benefit your business.

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Cloud technology

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