Running a business involves time-consuming admin and management tasks that are nonetheless crucial to staying competitive. Cloud-based technology lets you outsource the headaches, writes Daniel Marcus
The worldwide web has changed the ways in which businesses communicate with consumers. But did you know it has also changed the very ways in which business owners run their businesses? There is a slew of applications, both mobile and on desktops, which can be used to simplify task, account, and HR management – all of which can be time-consuming to the small business owner.
The facts are simple. In the dark old days before the Internet came along, you had to buy software (usually with a licence), install it, and then run it only on your own computer. Once you had your software, it was yours to use and manage as you saw fit.
Under the cloud model, however, business software is run online by a third-party provider and you access it through your Internet browser. With the cloud, there’s never a need to actually “own” any software.
Rather than buying a product, thus making it your responsibility to service and manage, you’re renting a service, the proper functioning of which is your service provider’s responsibility, not yours.
When you rent a car, you rightly expect to be able to jump in and drive off, safe in the knowledge that your car will work. The same is true of cloud services. When you sign up, you get to use the software without worrying about installing it, maintaining it, downloading updates, or keeping it secure.
As a business owner myself, I find the greatest benefit of the cloud to be financial. In much the same way as renting a car, there’s no massive upfront cost when signing on with a cloud-based service provider. Of course you pay a monthly fee, but you can scale your use of the product as per your business demands.
This means that when taking on more staff you can switch on new licenses immediately. It also means that, unlike physical business software that’s yours forever once you’ve bought it, you can switch licenses off if they’re no longer necessary.
An additional saving afforded by using cloud computing is the fact that you will never have to “upgrade” your software again. A good cloud service provider – who will always want to retain your business – will ensure that their service is always on the cutting edge of the latest innovations. The cost of upgrading the product is theirs, and not yours.
To put it in accounting terms, with cloud computing, spend on technology will no longer be a capital expense, but rather an operational one.
Though there are many positives, as outlined above, one cannot talk about the cloud without addressing the security concerns many have about it.
These concerns are valid; however, they can be mitigated.
A reliable cloud service provider ensures that it stays up to date with today’s ever-evolving industry standards and regulations. At the least, look for a provider that uses 512-bit SSL encryption, which is the same kind of encryption used in online banking. If you ask a provider about this and they can’t answer, look elsewhere. The cloud provider you’re looking for should be running periodical backups (at least on a daily basis). This means that should something go wrong, they will be able to recover your information.
A top-level cloud service providers’ servers run in state-of-the-art data centres with power-redundancy, hardware mirroring, and multiple internet connections.
And finally, the best cloud providers never access your data without your clear, explicit permission.
So yes, if you can find the service provider who can answer all your security concerns about the cloud, the benefits far outweigh the risks.
Few – if any – businesses can escape technological advancements. But just as the fax machine made way for email, and email made way for instant messaging services, technological advancements are a key driver of commercial competitiveness. Today, we’re entering the era of the cloud. Not making use of it means that you’re not only continuing to saddle your business with unnecessary costs but also failing to grab the competitive advantage the cloud offers your business.
Daniel Marcus is the director at Magnetic, a cloud-based small business management