Small-business owners are talented at turning their hand to every area of their business – from sales, to HR, to finance, to product development – and often, to IT. But for many of them, managing highly complex and confusing – and sometimes outdated – IT equipment is one headache too many.
These days many small-business owners are looking for a way to manage their IT that lets them spend more time concentrating on what they do best – running their business and spending more time with customers, staff and suppliers. One clever option is cloud computing.
Put simply, cloud computing provides the latest business software, communication tools, servers, storage and security over the internet. Business data is stored in remote but secure online environments, otherwise known as ‘virtual servers’ or ‘the cloud’, which enables businesses and their employees to securely access files from the office, shop, at home or in the field using desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones.
Most cloud services are charged on a monthly subscription basis. This means you can add or delete users or resources depending on your needs – whether seasonal or customer-demand driven – and avoids the need for significant upfront purchases like software licences, servers and hard drives. This also means that your IT budget moves from having lumpy, large cash outlays, to being an easy-to-forecast, monthly operational expense. And old server boxes with a jungle of cables that chew power and air-conditioning become a thing of the past.
A recent economist’s study found small businesses saved between 20% and 70% by moving to the cloud versus using traditional IT. From wholesalers to retailers, professional services, construction, household services, manufacturing and agriculture –pretty much wherever you look – businesses are making big savings.
Diminished headaches and cost of ownership aside, the key benefit of cloud computing is the way it improves productivity and customer responsiveness, by enabling mobile working. Mobility is no longer a preference for businesses but rather a key requirement to remain competitive.
Moving to the cloud gives your business the best tool to productively work remotely from anywhere there is mobile network coverage or an internet connection.
It’s important that small businesses invest time shopping around for cloud services. Choose a reputable company to host your data and check they have sufficient technical support to help you when you need it. Many small-business owners find the idea of relying on another company to keep their data safe strange or uncomfortable. However, those who have had burglaries, rogue employees, fires, floods or simply a hard drive that has crashed with no recent back-up, comment that the IT security and redundancy in the cloud is far superior.
Finally, while moving to the cloud can appear somewhat disruptive at first, every business that uses apps on a smartphone is using a cloud service – just on a small scale! In moving to the cloud for your main business software and information storage there are many great benefits – lower cost, lower complexity and lower risk, with more flexibility and convenience.
Now is the time to seize the opportunity.
Will Irving, Group Managing Director, Telstra Business