In a constantly changing technological world, small businesses try to keep up with the hype by getting on the innovation band wagon. One such innovation is cloud computing. Designed to remotely host software, servers and data storage, it promises to reduce operational expenses and lower the cost of energy bills.
This of course is beneficial to those who have limited budget and limited knowledge of technology infrastructures such as small business owners. Yet, a cloud hosting survey reveals that more than half of SMB respondents have no intention of using this trend. And the reason for this is that small business owners are not well informed of what cloud computing is and what its benefits are.
Cloud computing is basically a web-based service which allows users to access shared resources, information and software over the internet without needing to contact an IT department for help in managing those resources. In essence, it is about using a virtual server and instead of actually owning a physical infrastructure, you get to rent it. This would narrow down your expenses and as a small business owner, it is important to save on expenses especially if those expenses could be cut in half without sabotaging business operations.
Cloud computing is cost-effective and it can definitely help small businesses survive in the current economy. Apart from the savings in capital expenditures, one of the more attractive benefits of this trend is its accessibility. Because business owners are always on-the-go, it is important that data is available anytime, anywhere. Cloud services for data storage, backup, on-demand computing, desktop productivity, business applications as well as sales and marketing tools are becoming an increasing need for small businesses.
Running a business on an IT system, you need to make sure that your software is updated. Many software are now cloud-enabled, so be sure to take the opportunity to cloud-enable your IT. Sharepoint, for instance, is now cloud-enabled. As upgrading is a hassle to many SMBs, it’s recommended for you to hire a company which is an expert in migrating sharepoint.
Like everything else, cloud computing also has its risks and SMB owners need to be aware of it. A cloud computing risk assessment was conducted by the European Network and Information Agency (ENISA) which aims to analyze the key security risks when a business uses cloud computing. According to the assessment, the biggest factor why SMBs do not migrate to the cloud is because of security reasons.
Since cloud computing means you can access data anywhere as long as you are connected to the internet, there is concern regarding information confidentiality or data protection. Businesses of every nature and size bank on customer satisfaction and reputation so naturally, most owners are still skeptical of adopting cloud computing.
Big companies such as IBM, Microsoft, Dell and Amazon utilize cloud computing and now, SMBs have the opportunity to be in the same league at a much more affordable cost. Of course the risks are more magnified for small businesses since it may result in the loss of the business itself. The deciding factor here is whether the benefits and opportunities can outweigh those risks.
SMB’s should take a look at the Office 365 Cloud option when it is released in 2011. This productivity suite contains Office Web Apps, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online (with instant messaging, internet phone and video conferencing). This link will give you more details: http://smb.ms/OutreachbqE37P
Microsoft SMB Outreach Team
It is possible that an intermediate step to cloud computing could be an online storage service like Box.net. This way businesses could take advantage of having access to documents without having to take the bigger step that they might not understand. Once they become familiar with the option of having documents at their fingertips whenever they can access the Internet, many people will find that they want to expand that capability to have access to information that they might not have thought to post to in the Internet site ahead of time.
I agree that there are a lot of potentially huge benefits for small businesses migrating at least part of their business to the cloud. Certainly the forthcoming Office 365, as an alternative to a costly in-house server, is a good place to start.
But small businesses do need to be aware of the limitations of certain cloud services- a big one is online backup. Even with a fast Internet connection, backing up and restoring gigabytes and gigabytes of data to and from the cloud could take days or even weeks.