Today, increasing numbers of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are turning to the cloud for their technology needs. If you haven't already heard of “the cloud,” cloud computing enables SMBs to access software and services via the Internet, rather than through local hard drives and servers. This method of computing has made it easier and more affordable for SMBs to use enterprise-grade technology solutions provided by third-party providers rather than invest in expensive technology, more personnel and system upgrades. These major cost savings explain why so many businesses have exchanged expensive storage systems and servers for the convenience and power of the cloud.
Wondering what the cloud can do for your business? Here are some key benefits of cloud computing:
- Mobility – Because employees can access cloud-based programs and software from anywhere they have an Internet connection and from nearly any device, cloud computing enables SMBs to mobilize workers and provide them with all the tools they need to do their jobs, whether they're in or out of the office. Moreover, cloud computing allows for greater collaboration between remote and on-site employees, making audio, video and Web conferences, as well as document sharing and instant messaging programs, easily accessible.
- Increased security and reliability – When you use a cloud-computing solution, your business data resides in a secure, offsite location and will be backed up frequently or automatically and sometimes even geo-redundantly (in multiple locations). These data-backup features provide greater peace of mind as well as business continuity should disaster or unexpected disruptions to your business occur. Furthermore, you'll likely experience greater reliability when using a cloud service, especially if your business has limited IT resources, since cloud service providers have experienced IT staff and better access to the latest technologies.
- Lower costs – If you're looking to cut costs (and what business decision-maker isn't?), cloud-based services can provide many avenues to savings. Areas in which you'll likely save by using cloud-based services include server maintenance, power and cooling, IT personnel, software licensing and upgrade expenses.
- Scalability – Cloud-based services operate on a subscription-based payment model, a feature that allows for greater flexibility when it comes to your technology usage. You pay only for what you need, when you need it. For example, if your employee base fluctuates throughout the year or your storage demands vary at times, you can scale your services up or down depending on your business's needs.
If reading through these benefits sparks your interest in determining how your business could be leveraging the cloud, keep a few things in mind. First, not all cloud services providers are alike, so do your homework to ensure you select one with a strong track record when it comes to security and reliability. Learn what your provider's disaster recovery capabilities are and what its service level agreements include, as well as how the provider will protect your data from the latest security threats. Also, make sure your move to the cloud produces short- and long-term savings; you may find that it makes financial sense to move some programs to the cloud but also to leave some on the premises.
For more information on how SMBs can capitalize on the cloud, download “Running Your Business in the Cloud [pdf],” a free guide to cloud computing. For an exciting offer on Microsoft Office 365, a cloud-based collaboration and productivity solution, click here.
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