By Satish Patel
Cloud computing is redefining how businesses run, impacting the operations of large enterprises as well as start-ups. For some, the notion of “cloud computing” is a relatively new concept.
Cloud computing provides businesses with access to the valued end result or output of equipment and software, without the ownership or maintenance costs required by purchasing it. Most often, cloud computing is delivered as software as a service (SaaS) where users can access a web based solution via a subscription without the heavy investment in the IT infrastructure to support it. Recent growth in cloud computing is partly driven by the growth in mobile technology platforms that allow users to access information anywhere, anytime.
Although large enterprises with multiple geographically dispersed offices have benefitted from cloud computing, it has been an even greater benefit to small businesses. Small businesses now have access to enterprise solutions via cloud computing that would otherwise be unaffordable for them. Even more importantly, these cloud based solutions allow small business to function more like larger business in the information they can access while simultaneously maintaining the flexibility and agility of a small business, allowing them to react and adapt to situations.
Some of the benefits cloud computing provides for small businesses, include:
No heavy investment or maintenance costs in IT– The software as a service method allows multiple users to subscribe to the solution. The vendor providing the solution- Intaact, NetSuite, etc. absorbs the maintenance costs, and by offering the solution on a subscription basis can pass along cost savings due to economies of scale attributable to user volume.
Ease of implementation– Cloud based solutions eliminate the need for small businesses to invest in infrastructure development, training, and support. Businesses subscribe to the service, and training and support are provided by the vendor on an as needed basis. The business owner can subscribe and unsubscribe to the cloud service as they wish.
Redeployment of IT– For small business with limited manpower, cloud based services free up time for IT resources to be redeployed on more strategic initiatives or reduce the need for full time IT employees.
Security- Business owners should always check this, but reputable cloud based solutions are knowledgeable about the most up-to-date security measures and encryption technology. This becomes one critical task which the business owner does not need to address, as the responsibility is absorbed by the cloud service provider who may have more expertise in this arena.
Scalability- Most cloud providers offer packages with different access levels so that small businesses only need to pay for the services they require and use, resulting in overall cost savings for the small business.
Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery- As a small business, this is a critical task which can often lack the attention it deserves simply due to manpower and bandwidth. Cloud based services assist with this, as they back-up critical data offsite as part of providing the solution, facilitating access to this data in case of an emergency.
Small to mid-sized businesses have the most to gain from leveraging cloud based solutions in their business operations.