Chances are, you already use the cloud in some area of your life. Whether it’s storing photos from your phone or listening to streaming music, cloud has quickly become essential to modern life. Yet many small businesses are still using antiquated processes to store and share their files. As digital data grows, those systems are no longer adequate.
Benefits of cloud migration can be significant, including lower office expenses and increased efficiency, but there’s a lot of confusion around getting started. Check out the info below to build a strong foundation for your small business cloud.
What Is Cloud Storage?
The cloud is a network of servers that handles data remotely. A cloud network can store data — like all those images we upload to Facebook — or serve up applications for streaming services like Spotify.
The most immediate benefit of using the cloud is easy access. Salesforce sums it up nicely: "Where in the past, people would run applications or programs from software downloaded on a physical computer or server in their building, cloud computing allows people to access the same kinds of applications through the internet."
How Can the Cloud Help Small Business?
Storing data in the cloud gives small business employees the ability to work from anywhere. You might be giving a PowerPoint presentation to a potential client downtown while an analyst compiles a weekly report from home and someone in the office enters data. Whatever the scenario, you’re all accessing the same data in real time. The cloud boosts efficiency by keeping all your files in the same place and accessible from anywhere.
Not only is that data readily available, but working in the cloud also reduces the need for expensive IT hardware and on-site software. Employees just need a computer to access a variety of services such as video conferencing, mobile and internet convergence, data sharing, integrated messaging, and software that was previously only available with the purchase of a license. Cloud-based software is also constantly updated, so you’re always using the latest version.
Another significant benefit of moving small business services to the cloud is the ability to scale. When you need more processing power or data storage, it’s easy to expand without changing hardware — and without the unproductive downtime that usually comes with an IT upgrade.
Cloud Options and Where to Start
Cloud computing has reached a level of maturity that makes it accessible to small business, but the host of options can be overwhelming. Start by researching some of the best cloud services for small businesses. Most fall into categories, so you can choose based on your needs:
- Communications and commerce-based tools
- Security and network monitoring
- Financial tools
It’s important to vet cloud service providers before adopting one, just as you would any other service provider. Consider a few key elements when looking for an online storage provider, including proven infrastructure and an active, established user base.
When assessing a provider, take a look at the company’s security measures as well. Many small business owners report being concerned about the security of remotely accessed cloud-based systems. However, broad scrutiny, higher standards, and ongoing audits result in a more secure cloud overall. Small businesses can do their part to maintain data security by ensuring tight permissions, and by identifying risks in the office.
You can find more tips on cloud adoption — as well as resources specific to small business — by visiting our Small Business Hub. And to join the conversation, be sure to follow @IntelSmallBiz on Twitter.