Companies are investing in the cloud: Fourth-quarter expenditure on cloud capital grew 29 percent last year. Companies show no signs of scaling back spend in 2018.For small businesses, however, it’s easy to view the cloud as an enterprise expenditure — just 30 percent of SMBs are using cloud services, even as the same number worry their competition may be making better use of technology. The result? It’s worth looking past the hype and unpacking the key benefits of cloud computing for SMBs.
Capital matters to SMBs. Technology isn’t cheap, and money spent upgrading or repairing servers is money better used for innovation, R&D or marketing. Cloud computing helps reduce capital strain by eliminating the need to purchase costly hardware — moving the burden of maintenance and upgrading onto your cloud provider.
Why do it if the cloud can do it for you? In the cloud, trusted providers handle software updates, app subscription renewals and other logistical details. Thus, allowing your staff to simply use the cloud rather than manually applying upgrades and hoping they don’t impact legacy systems. Also of benefit? Security patches are automatically installed as they become available, increasing total protection.
You don’t always need the same amount of compute power or bandwidth. The problem? Typical hardware doesn’t scale — you must overprovision to meet potential traffic spikes. When these spikes end, however, you’re paying for something you don’t use. Cloud services let you scale on demand to meet business needs, then scale back without penalty. In other words? Pay for what you use, when you use it.
Anywhere, Anytime Access
For many SMBs, the most efficient way to conduct business and reach new clients is putting staff in the field — or letting them work from home. Cloud solutions let your team work anywhere, anytime and from any device. Meaning, they’re not restricted by time, location or technology. The expanding market for collaboration tools and unified communication services lets employees leverage the cloud to create and modify files, connect seamlessly over video and easily connect new endpoints. SMB owners, meanwhile, get the peace of mind that comes with true network transparency.
Data drives SMB success in the digital world. Lose access to your data — because of natural disasters, hardware failures or malicious attacks — and it may be impossible to recover. Cloud-based data recovery solutions ensure that reliable copies of your data are always stored securely off site and accessible on demand. By creating both regular and long-term backups in the cloud, SMBs can guaranteethey always have access to mission-critical data.
One concern many SMBs have about the cloud is security: Is data really safe off site? In many cases, however, cloud services are moresecure than their on-site counterparts. Consider: If physical devices — hard drives, USB drives or mobile devices — are stolen from your business, the data loss could be devastating. Storing data in the cloud reduces the chance of accidental loss or intentional theft. What’s more, if mobile devices go missing, data can be remotely wiped. In addition, cloud providers are now held to strict standards regarding data audits, encryption and security certificates to maximize overall protection.
The cloud doesn’t discriminate based on business size, allowing SMBs access to the same functionality as their enterprise counterparts. In addition, advanced cloud solutions now let small businesses streamline some of their most complex and difficult tasks, such as payroll, accounts payable and tax compliance.
Consumers often expect more of small businesses — more connection with communities and greater emphasis on social mandates or environmental stewardship. Leveraging the cloud lets SMBs take advantage of shared data centers to cut energy usage, improve efficiency and reduce total carbon footprint. In turn, boosting positive public perception.
Considering the cloud? For SMBs, benefits now outpace potential concerns.
Author bio: Steve Johnson is President of Maryland Computer Service, and has been helping businesses harness the power of technology for nearly 20 years. His experiences during that time make him uniquely qualified to guide small and medium businesses through the technologies of today into the future.