It seems small businesses face an endless list of challenges. Not only are there cashflow concerns, regulatory requirements and customer acquisition, but also managing the communication between you and your customers and suppliers. So how do you do all that on a shoestring budget, but make sure that way works when you grow?
Cloud computing is taking on a broader approach. Essentially it’s utilising, and storing, all your business communication systems – email, files, databases, applications and phone systems – from within a secure data centre instead of at your office. The traditional way of doing this was to install all your software and files on your PC, or if you were really on top of technology, you would have an IT company install a server in your office.
Cloud computing does away with the hassle of installing your applications on every PC. You don’t even need a server or a phone system in your office any more.
Cloud computing is not new, but it has been the domain of big business for many years. The key reason big businesses do this is to centralise and secure their information while providing their employees access to their systems from almost anywhere. It used to be cost prohibitive for small businesses to do this. However, things have changed, and changed in a big way.
Cloud computing is now cheaper, more flexible and more scalable than installing your own systems and software. Companies have been providing small businesses with cloud computing and cloud phone systems for years now. They are giving their business customers the ability to start small and expand easily. The businesses are keeping their main phone numbers when they move, can work remotely from almost anywhere, and worry less about what it takes to communicate.
Growing a successful business means effectively communicating both internally and externally. With phone systems, it’s about being able to work from anywhere but staying connected with the same phone number. It’s about productivity, and increasing it through simple means such as seeing who is on a call before you pick up the handset. It’s about being able to easily conference multiple people in. It’s automatically diverting calls to mobile, and it might even be having a software phone on your laptop at home.
Cloud computing is very similar, but it’s more than being able to work remotely. It’s getting your business information quickly and securely. It’s making sure it’s backed up and available even in the event of a problem with your ‘work’ PC or laptop. It’s also, now, about reducing your capital costs. You no longer need to build an IT environment that inevitably needs upgrading or replacing when you move or need to employ more people. You also don’t need to go out and buy and install a bunch of software on your PC or laptop.
Your computer acts like a remote monitor, or a window, into your network. Everything is installed ‘in the cloud‘. It makes setting up new PCs a breeze (almost nothing to install). You and your staff access your communications network via a highly secure internet or private network connection. Most good providers can offer you a private connection from your office directly to your environment. They can even provide a firewall ‘in the cloud’ to make sure your office has the best protection against internet threats.
This all sounds expensive, right? Thankfully it’s not. It’s typically much cheaper than doing all of this the traditional way while giving your business less headaches in the process.
So if you need to spend more time focusing on growing your business and less time upgrading and managing the systems to support it, take a closer look at cloud computing.
Mal Smith, Managing Director, CommSys Australia