The Small Business Cloud

For any small business, cloud applications and services can streamline your processes and make them super-efficient. But what exactly is the ‘Cloud’ and how can you make the most of it for your small business?

The Small Business Cloud


It’s finally official! Cloud computing has now become mainstream in the U.S. Recent research by Virtustream, an enterprise-focused cloud services company, shows that more than half of U.S. businesses have adopted cloud services in one form or another. Moreover, an in-depth survey conducted by Engine Yard, a leading cloud computing management platform, had shown that only 11% of survey respondents answered that they had used cloud computing in 2011 while, in 2015, a whopping 74% of respondents were using some form of cloud computing.

More and more businesses, especially startups & small/medium sized businesses (SMBs), are adopting some form of cloud computing services. SMBs are quickly realizing the immense benefits that cloud computing has to offer and any startup or SMB must think about the possibility of adopting the ‘cloud’, if anything, to simply keep up with the competition (in addition to a vast number of other benefits). But, what exactly is the ‘cloud?’

Cloud Computing What is it?

Cloud computing is simply running applications through the internet off a shared set of web-based servers provided by a third-party vendor. This is in contrast to the traditional way of running your applications by purchasing software, installing it on a computer, then only being able to use it on the computer that the application is installed on.

So, basically, cloud computing is internet computing, running and using your applications online. Simply relate this capability to how most people access their emails, through a username password via gmail, yahoo, hotmail, etc. So, you log into an application that your business uses and use it anytime, anywhere, and from any device so long as there’s an internet connection.

Regarding costs, instead of purchasing & installing licensed software & legacy applications, cloud vendors offer applications and IT infrastructure services as a rental service usually termed ‘Software-as-a-Service’ or ‘SaaS.’ You purchase the service through a pay-for-use system where you pay only for what you actually use (usually according to the number of users who you want to use your cloud-based application) and you’re business, along with anyone else agreed upon with the vendor, are provided access to your application via the internet.

So what are the benefits of this? Why exactly are most businesses in the U.S. (and an astounding 30% of businesses worldwide) using the cloud?

The Main Small Business Benefits of Cloud Computing

Basically, cloud computing gives businesses the ability to transfer or create their entire IT infrastructure on the cloud. So, the cloud isn’t limited to running some applications off the internet. For many businesses, especially enterprise-level technology companies that use a plethora of applications, cloud computing involves running most, if not all, of their IT infrastructure through a third-party cloud vendor. Specifically, for startups & small businesses, there are a number of huge benefits to keep in mind when thinking about using cloud computing services.

Decreased IT costs Increased Competitiveness

A while ago, startups & small businesses were usually prevented from adopting large-scale & powerful applications for their business due to heavy capital investment, leaving larger & more capital-intensive businesses with the advantage of using advanced software applications to streamline their business and maximize efficiency & productivity.

However, with the cloud, startups & small businesses are now able to afford using almost any application, large or small, through the SaaS ability that the cloud offers. To use advanced applications that streamline their business and give more value to their customers, businesses don’t have any expensive hardware to purchase, no need of hiring of a full-blown IT team, and no allocation of valuable business resources to maintain the company’s IT infrastructure. This has allowed the smallest of businesses to use the same technology that large businesses do, therefore leveling the playing field in this respect.

Flexibility & Increased Productivity

Another huge benefit the cloud offers small businesses is increased flexibility & productivity. Since the cloud enables the workforce of a company to access applications via the internet, this means that your employees can work anytime, anywhere, and from any device. You can work directly on the business platform on your way to work, at home in the middle of the night, or while waiting for a colleague to show at a business outing. Moreover, you can now hire and add experts to your company no matter where they are located around the world and easily collaborate on projects and get cost-competitive specialized experts in almost any skilled field.

Hence, the cloud not only increases the productivity of your employees, it also offers great flexibility in human resource allocation and business processes.

Increased Collaboration

The cloud also offers your business increased collaboration among your workforce on projects and any work-related tasks as all your data is centrally stored in one location, allowing for easy data retrieval and file sharing. You can also embed social software tools into the cloud allowing for amazing communication between your employees, customers, and any one given access to the system.

Near Perfect Scalability

Since a business ‘rents’ the software as a service and only pays for whatever it actually uses, as your business grows, you can add more user access and features on a need-to-use basis, whether your company is growing slowly or rapidly. Cloud computing is the ideal example of scalability in practice. So, rather than investing in additional software licenses and company servers that are expensive to purchase and maintain, you can simply modify your subscription agreement with your cloud vendor.

More Effective & Cheaper Data Retrieval

Nearly every company with some sort of IT infrastructure used to spend lots of time & money creating complex backup & recovery plans in case something were to happen to their data. However, with the cloud, all your data and applications are automatically updated and maintained by the software vendor. So, not only do you transfer the process of backup & recovery to the vendor, but you also reduce the cost since the cost of data retrieval services is shared between the clients of the third-party cloud vendor.

Going Green

The SaaS payment style that cloud vendors offer means that businesses only pay for the amount of server space they actually use. This minimizes the carbon footprint of your business since you will not be investing in resources that you may or may not need in the future. Furthermore using cloud computing can result in about a 30% reduction in energy utility bills than using on-premise company servers. However, SMBs get the largest benefit. For small-sized companies, the savings are likely to be in the 90% reduction range of energy bills.

Cloud Adoption Some Principles to Keep in Mind

The benefits of cloud computing and the adoption of SaaS services are certainly clear to a vast number of businesses but does this mean that companies should simply decide to transfer or create their entire IT infrastructure in the cloud? The answer is not that simple as there are a few things that you should keep in mind if you are thinking of adopting cloud services in one form or another.

Choose an Experienced Vendor

First, you must make sure you choose an experienced vendor who’s been in the business a long time. Since there is continuity of service with experienced vendors who have been offering SaaS services for a while, this means that they have not made crucial mistakes like losing or jeopardizing the data of their clients, which usually spells disaster and the end of the vendor since security is the number one concern for businesses thinking of adopting the cloud. These failed cloud vendors usually restart their business under another name, therefore, study your vendors well and make sure you are in experienced hands.

Align Business Strategy with Cloud Strategy

It is crucial that you study your overall business objectives & mission as well as analyze exactly what you are aiming to accomplish and get from using cloud services. Aligning business strategy with every aspect of company operations is a necessary condition for success and doing so with your cloud strategy is no exception. Therefore, you should work carefully with your vendor to make sure your business strategy & goals are aligned with the cloud services you are receiving.

Make Sure You Have a Reliable Internet Connection

Since cloud computing is completely net-based, you have to make sure that your business has a reliable internet connection & bandwidth to enable quick & easy access to your cloud applications. Moreover, it is a must that you have a backup internet source in case your first internet source fails for any particular reason.

Go Piecemeal

It is usually not smart to do an all-of-a-sudden transfer of all your applications or IT infrastructure to the cloud as this may change the entire structure of your business which is something you may or may not be prepared for. Therefore, it is much smarter to adopt cloud services according to your level of comfort and go piecemeal. Select a couple of your business applications to use on the cloud at first. This way, you will learn many valuable things like your vendor’s service & reliability, the practical benefits & unexpected disadvantages of the cloud, and learning from mistakes that you can avoid in the future.

SaaS & the Cloud The Tool To Transform Your Business

To sum up, cloud computing offers vast amounts of advantages for businesses, especially for startups and small-to-medium-sized businesses. You can minimize IT costs, increase productivity, gain flexibility, go green, collaborate more effectively, and so much more. But, in going to the cloud, make sure you keep some important principles in mind including choosing an experienced vendor, having a reliable internet connection, and aligning your cloud strategy to your business strategy. 

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