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Cloud computing has become clear as the way software and data will be stored in the future. Businesses that have moved to the cloud can get a lot of benefits, like making things easier and saving money. We explain what the cloud is, how it can help your business, and if it’s a good idea to spend money on it.
Cloud computing is a way to use the internet to do things you would normally do on your computer, like store data, share information, and use the software.
Instead of buying software and installing it on your computer, applications are now hosted on secure servers that you can access over the internet, or “in the cloud.”
To get to the cloud, you’ll need a secure internet connection. Some software and storage can be accessed through your web browser (like Google Chrome or Internet Explorer) or through apps you download to your computer or mobile device.
One of the biggest benefits for businesses is that all storage and processing is done virtually, so there’s no need for a network server. But the benefits don’t end there.
Robert Epstein, who is in charge of sales and marketing for small businesses at Microsoft UK, says that there are still more things that can be done.
“What’s new is the large and growing number of software options, as well as the fact that cloud services are now much more useful because of faster connections and more bandwidth.”
Using technology in the cloud
Most of the time, businesses pay a cloud services provider, like Google or Microsoft, monthly fee for their software or service. Instead of owning the software, you get a license to use it and pay a monthly fee to do so.
Small businesses often use email, customer relationship management software, accounting software, and databases in the cloud.
Not only can you store data online with productivity software, but you can also use cloud systems to do so. You can save documents and data to the cloud instead of saving them to a hard drive or network server.
Prices depend on what services you need, but they are all reasonable. Microsoft’s small business package costs between £9 and £11 per user per month and gives users access to email, data sharing, and web conferencing, among other important business tools.
Flexible IT solutions
Epstein says that cloud computing can give small businesses a lot of freedom. “You can get to it from anywhere, at any time, on any internet-connected device.”
It may also be worth the money. Instead of buying software that you install on a single computer or network, you just pay a fee every month. You’ll need to buy a license for each user, but the move to the cloud has made it cheaper than ever to use productivity software.
When you store data in the cloud, you can get to it from almost any internet-connected device, at any time, from anywhere. You can check and change Word documents on your phone, and then finish them on your laptop by logging in.
With cloud software, you don’t have to worry about keeping it up-to-date, which can be a time-consuming and often confusing task. The software provider handles all updates, upgrades, and maintenance behind the scenes, so you’ll always be using the safest and most up-to-date version.
Epstein says, “This can help you compete with big companies on a more even playing field because you can use the latest, most advanced software without spending a lot of money.”
You can choose from a wide range of cloud computing services, such as productivity software, data storage, design packages, and more. Here are some of the most popular ones among small businesses:
As we’ve said, to use cloud solutions, you need a stable internet connection, which means they may not be right for everyone. For instance, if your internet connection goes down, you might not be able to get to important information.
It’s important to choose a cloud software provider you can trust when looking for one. Cloud solutions are available from all of the big names in software that you can trust. You can read reviews online to learn from what other people have done.
Experts say that if you run your business in the cloud, you should carefully look over service level agreements before signing them. Epstein stresses, “Make sure they have the technical skills to handle your business needs, and always ask about their security standards.”
“There’s no reason to change your IT setup just because you can,” he says in the end. “But it’s worth looking into if your email package is a little slow or you’re thinking about upgrading.”
Getting ready for the cloud
If your business uses cloud technology, it will change the way you work in a big way. It will also change how your company buys and gives your staff IT services. Experts say that before you jump, you should carefully weigh the costs and benefits.
Neil Cross from Advanced talks about seven important things you should think about before putting your small business on the cloud:
Figure out what you want and why you want it. Make sure you know what you want the cloud to help you do better. Think about cloud services along with other options and think about the pros and cons of each.
Know your business needs in general, not just your IT needs. Cloud computing is used by a lot of businesses to make their systems work better. But cloud computing can mean big changes to your IT infrastructure and the end of services and processes that your employees are used to. It’s important that the changes you propose are right for your whole business. Cost savings might not be enough to justify these big changes on their own.
Get ready carefully. Carefully plan how cloud computing will be used. Figure out how it will be used, managed, and kept an eye on. You can get “on-demand” cloud services in just a few minutes. This can be a good way to try out different options before putting them in place for your whole business.
Make it easier and cheaper. Since cloud services only cost a small amount each month, they seem to be inexpensive. But those monthly costs can add up quickly, especially if you add extra features or user accounts. Also, keep in mind that things can get worse. You’ll need to figure out how to manage your cloud provider(s) and connect the different IT parts of your business.
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