During the COVID-19 outbreak, there's been a rush to cloud services, small businesses investing in the market as they struggle with new challenges. Cloud services often facilitate easier remote working for employees, but small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs) are also recognizing the many other advantages of using cloud-based services over traditional in-house operations.
In this article, we look at cloud services for a small business and how they can help you achieve your goals. Whether you're looking for the best cloud storage for your data backup needs, to find better ways to collaborate as a team online, or to automate phone support, cloud services can help. First, let’s look at what we mean by the cloud in this context.
Understanding the cloud
Cloud computing is a term that covers a wide range of services and applications. In most cases, you rent online computing services - such as storage, servers, software, analytics, and databases - from cloud service providers. You typically only pay for the cloud services that you use, helping to lower your operating costs.
As a typical example, consider the storage of your customer data. Traditionally, a company stores all customer data on its own network of database servers. With cloud computing, you instead rent storage space from an online provider.
Other cloud services work in a similar fashion. Instead of relying on a desktop accounting system, you can use a cloud accounting service hosted online. Do you need a reliable way for your teams to collaborate? Cloud collaboration tools are cheaper and simpler to implement than running your own bespoke setup.
Using cloud services, small businesses through to enterprises can move everything online, and hand over much of their day-to-day operations to third parties.
Lower the burden on your IT team
The first major benefit of using a cloud service is its simplicity. Consider the example of a company struggling with a large amount of customer data to process. As business has grown, and the information stored for every customer has ballooned, it requires larger on-site data centers and more worker hours to manage it.
The company’s IT team must spend time setting up servers, patching software, fixing security issues, and implementing new, faster ways to access the data stored on the servers to keep up with the competition.
Choose a cloud storage provider, and you won’t have any of these concerns. Your customer data is in the cloud, and you don’t have to worry about the complex implementation of how it works. This frees your IT staff to work on more business-critical features. You could even significantly lower your payroll expenses because you will no longer require staff to handle the management of your infrastructure.
Besides saving time and effort, when it comes to cloud services small businesses can save a fortune on operating costs. You won’t be paying for traditional hardware, maintenance, upgrades, and office space.
Cloud service companies usually work on a pay-what-you-use basis, which is attractive to SMEs and large businesses alike. Instead of worrying about an expensive subscription, you only pay for the services that you use.
Cloud services scale with your business
Another important benefit of cloud computing is its scalability. You may start by using a small amount of transferred data and storage. This doesn’t cost much. In fact, many cloud service providers offer a limited free service so you can trial the systems for yourself.
As your business grows, though, you’ll need to make more use of the services. The price increases on a sliding scale as your revenue increases, so you’re always able to afford it. Contrast this with the nightmare of upgrading your own systems, moving to new premises, and dealing with all the logistics of growing pains. The traditional model often sees you having to spend in advance for things that you don’t quite need yet.
When it comes to cloud services, small businesses will often find that the products scale perfectly with their growth.
With your applications and data on the cloud, there’s a central repository that your employees can all work in together. Instead of complex versioning software prone to errors, everyone can work on the same project in real time. Staff members can easily share data with each other, and the chances of data loss are significantly reduced.
Using cloud-based collaboration tools frees your employees to work remotely in a way that suits them best. This flexibility has become of great importance over the past year, and companies unable to adapt to this new requirement are being left behind in the dust. The improved efficiency, productivity, and cost savings of cloud-based online collaboration tools cannot be overstated.
One reason that SMEs sometimes drag their feet on cloud adoption relates to concerns about security. If you have sensitive user data, it can be worrying to send everything across the internet and store it with a third party.
But businesses almost universally see an improvement in security by moving to the cloud. Many company data breaches begin with an inside source, where an employee intentionally or accidentally introduces system vulnerabilities. On cloud systems, authorized personnel have fine-grained access control tools to limit who can access sensitive data. They can also monitor access to data and identify breaches immediately. Files are stored in an encrypted format so unauthorized viewers cannot view data even if there is a breach.
Large cloud providers simply have bigger budgets to use on security than individual companies. They employ staff committed to ensuring that security is of the highest standard.
In moving to cloud services, small businesses - no matter how tiny - can leverage the immense size of cloud-based infrastructure. When your company receives unexpected interest - perhaps from a marketing campaign that goes viral or a sales event that garners huge interest - having your systems on the cloud means that more CPU, bandwidth, and storage are instantly available to help deal with the unexpected traffic. This helps you avoid embarrassing outages that can cause you to lose sales and prestige.
Cloud services are also perfect for creating a robust backup strategy. Losing customer data due to hardware failure can be catastrophic, so a solid backup system must be in place. Cloud services offer a huge range of options for backing up your precious data that differ on how quickly you can access the data and how much the storage costs. You can store data that you don’t need to frequently access for a fraction of the cost of traditional data storage.
When it comes to cloud services, small businesses looking to streamline operations and lower costs can find new ways to work. You can also use them to improve performance, heighten security, and increase reliability.