Those of us in small business need ways to run our businesses more efficiently, securely, and in a way that is not cost prohibitive. Cloud computing is a viable solution that offers many advantages to the small business owner. When the owner is often the go to person for everything in the business, taking care of complicated and expensive network hardware is not something he or she needs to deal with.
Some advantages to cloud computing are:
- Lower cost. Cloud based software applications can often cost less than their on the shelf brethren. In addition, cloud computing can significantly lower the cost of online backup and data storage.
- Less space. Computing in the cloud means there is less memory used on office machines and that could increase the lifespan of those machines. It also eliminates some of the space needed for network routing.
- Lower overhead. Few small businesses have their own in house IT department and when something goes awry that the owner can’t fix, outside people are needed. These onsite service calls are often expensive and time consuming. While waiting for the technician, systems may not work, resulting in a loss of productivity. Cloud computing solves many of these issues.
We have all heard references to lost data existing somewhere in the “Ethernet.” Cloud computing makes use of that Ethernet to provide a wide variety of computing services over the internet. This creates a computing environment where file sharing is instant and data backup no longer requires gigabytes of memory on physical machines. Many of the services available on the cloud are free or are offered for relatively low subscription costs. Some of the applications useful to small businesses are:
- Google Docs. This free service allows for instant file sharing across the internet. Its uses are only bound with the imagination of the users involved. Not only are files shared via the internet, the service allows for updates and collaboration on document production.
- Highrise. Client Relationship Management (CRM) is crucial in any business. Employees must have the ability to track clients and follow communications with those clients. For a fee of $24 to $149 per month, depending on service level, this tool allows owners and employees to track clients and communicate with those clients in a timely fashion.
- Google Apps. This fee based platform costs about $50 per user per year and is an enhanced version of Google Docs. For a small business with few employees, this is an effective way of sharing files and on the go collaboration.
- Basecamp. Project management is crucial to business operations and the larger the project the more difficult it is to manage. Basecamp allows for project management that is instantly shareable and works with mobile and remote employees. It is fee based and costs $20 to $150 per month depending on the level of service chosen.
- Box.net. Another file sharing platform to ease collaboration between employees on the go and in the office. Many businesses are embracing the benefits of home based or contracted employees and Box.net allows businesses to enjoy a wide spectrum of benefits. Pricing ranges from free to custom pricing depending on levels of service.
- Skype. Skype allows for free video conferencing and low cost calling to landline and mobile phones. It is a great platform for long distance meetings and is considerably cheaper than bringing remote employees to the office for conferences.
- Quick Books Online. Accounting is an important part of day to day operations. Nothing in business can happen without first knowing where the money is coming from, when it is coming, and how and when it is going out. Quick Books Online allows for remote accounting and collaboration between all employees. Track sales, employee time, project costs, income and expenditures on one secure online platform.
Cloud computing offers many advantages for business owners and perhaps nowhere else are those advantages clearer than with small businesses. A small business that does not enjoy a large IT or accounting department can see immediate benefits to cloud computing. Larger businesses with many employees can also see large dividends. Online security is getting better every day and businesses that choose to embrace the cloud will reap the rewards.
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She writes on local news for the best local business directory. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity to different Chamber of Commerce websites worldwide.