Why the cloud matters for small business
December 6, 2011
Look past the hype. The cloud can be your competitive advantage.
Cloud computing is an obviously overused term and many small businesses are skeptical, as I can attest to from some recent conversations with local entrepreneurs. I’m not surprised as this term has been stamped on so many products to the point where it loses its meaning, but if we ignore cloud technologies we pass up on several advantages for our business.
Real Savings & Less Distractions
The cloud can host your applications and data. Here the potential savings in cost, time and resources can be substantial. You don’t need to manage your own email, collaboration or CRM server: you have multiple service providers to choose from. Even documents and spreadsheets can be created and stored online with Google Docs. This results in reduced IT staffing costs and savings on licensing and infrastructure for your business. You can’t beat the economies of scale of a SaaS vendor. When the need arises for temporary computing power, cloud infrastructure solutions such as Amazon Web Services can fill the gap, a better alternative to having hardware sit idle and underutilized. You as an entrepreneur can stop being a part-time IT resource and focus more on your business.
Stay in Sync
Once you start using multiple devices (i.e. smartphone and tablet), the need for the cloud becomes even more obvious. When you are out in the field you want to access and update your information, but once you are back in the office you may be more productive using your desktop. This requires desktop and mobile applications that can sync their data. Without the cloud, keeping data consistent among multiple devices is much more difficult, even more so if you want to collaborate with your team. More and more mobile apps with corresponding web/desktop versions are coming to market with the ability to sync with the cloud. The team that can communicate and collaborate more efficiently wins here, and the cloud can help streamline all this.
Smaller organizations have the advantage in adopting new cloud and mobile technologies which are becoming available at an increasingly faster pace. In most cases a small business can adopt innovations at the pace they choose. Large companies must go through a long vetting and purchase process, creating a significant lag in realizing productivity gains. If you find a mobile cloud enabled database app that you know will make life easier, you could start using it today. App stores with customer reviews and vendor web sites with adequate product information, demos and testimonials should help you to find the tools that fit your needs without being on the bleeding edge. This knowledge and experience could also be valuable information that you can pass on to your own customers.
Agility & Advantage
It is natural to be skeptical of the cloud, but don’t miss the chance to gain an edge. Look at the tools available and understand what real problems you can solve. Become more agile and responsive than your competition by having the right tools and information at the right time.