The Future of Cloud Computing: Why Small Businesses Should Make the Transition


Collaboration by Cloud Computing

What is Cloud Computing?

Despite the growing popularity of the term, it remains rather ambiguous, often leaving many small businesses unsure and uncertain of whether or not they should jump on the bandwagon.  So what is it exactly? At its core, and perhaps most useful definition, cloud computing simply refers to web applications. You use it all the time, often unknowingly, whenever you use any internet-based application. Applications such as Gmail, Hotmail, Dropbox, Google Docs, all perform their services and give you access to information over the internet.

The Benefits of Cloud Computing

Reduced Costs: Many of these applications often provide services for free. Unlike a decade ago, where businesses had to invest in new hardware and costly servers, small businesses no longer have to take such huge risks. Without all the in-house hardware to worry about, businesses also don’t have to worry about large IT costs as well.

Access from anywhere: One of the biggest defining features of cloud computing, rests in its ability to provide services and information to users wherever there is internet access. This creates greater flexibility in when and where people work. Many people today choose to work remotely, as they can still remain connected to the office despite the distance.

Scalability: With such a wide variety of services, businesses can easily adjust the applications they use as the business continues to grow. Most cloud services have monthly fees – as opposed to long term products. Further, many products often have very specific focuses, from targeting small businesses to large enterprises. Wherever your business falls, there is sure to be an optimal solution.

Specific Cloud Computing Services Useful for Small Businesses

Storage: These sites allow you to store any of your files or data onto their servers. This means that you can access your information from anywhere. Many of these services sync data between different users and computers as well, allowing for greater collaboration.

  • Dropbox.com
  • Box.net
  • Egnyte Hybrid Cloud Solution

Productivity: These cloud computing services allow businesses to collaborate and sync documents and files (some in real-time) between numerous users. Businesses no longer have to do work all the same office or location. Working remotely is now a viable and useful option.

  • Google Docs – Document collaboration stored online; meant primarily for few numbers of people and documents
  • Google Apps – Can be tailored for any business size; web-based email, calendar, and documents for teams
  • Microsoft Office Live Small Business – a package tailored to small businesses including services ranging from storage to email to document collaboration.
  • Basecamp.hq – a project collaboration site

Finance and Accounting: While dealing with and recording transactions is crucial for all businesses, it often remains quite cumbersome and difficult when having to record all transactions at one location. These sites allow you to keep easily track of such records from almost anywhere and some offer a wide variety of bookkeeping services for free.

  • Outright.com – a bookkeeping site
  • Bill.com – integrates with QuickBooks, Intacct.com and Audit trail; keeps track of accounts payable
  • Intacct.com
  • Audit trail

Customer Relationship Management (CRM): Making the most of customer relationships is so crucial for today’s businesses struggling to maintain relevancy. These Cloud CRM services easily tabulate different statistics, projections, and recommendations based upon your business. Firms no longer have to pay large costs to perform extensive market research. These services are easy to use and perform at a much lower cost.

  • Salesforce.com
  • Zoho CRM
  • Free CRM
  • BatchBook
  • HubSpot

IT Support Tools: For small businesses, this is a perfect opportunity to save on IT expenses as these cloud computing services easily allow businesses to maintain and troubleshoot existing hardware remotely.

  • Meraki Wifi Stumbler
  • Logmein Central

Resources

Now that you have all this information about what cloud computing can do for your business, there is still the challenge of trying to figure out which service is the best for your business. There are tons of sites out there and before choosing one it would be best to research what service might be best tailored to what your business needs. Of course, there’s no better way of determining that until you give it a test run. Many of these sites offer free trials. Here are a list of sites that compare or review the more popular cloud computing services.

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