By Robert W. McDonald
Small business owners should always be on the lookout for anything that can reduce their operating costs and/or makes them more competitive. That’s why the “supersmalls,” companies with no more than five employees, including the owner, should take a close look at Cloud Computing.
Cloud computing is big business computing technology delivered to small businesses.
Everyone knows that personal computers and the Internet have changed the way that the world does business, and that the use of computing technology as an effective business tool will be even more critical to profitability and business survival in the next decade. But, while the health of the economy might be improving, no one wants to face the costs related to upgrading their business computing capabilities. That’s where Cloud Computing enters the picture.
In Cloud Computing expensive business hardware and software are shifted from the small business, via the Internet or some form of a private business network, to a virtual environment known as the Cloud where it can be accessed on an as needed basis. In this model, the small business is not forced to purchase computer products and services for which it would have little, if any, need. Instead, it would contract with a Cloud Provider for a predefined package of both general and specialized services such as business software suites and software interfaces to other business’s software in order to facilitate ordering, billing and inventory functions.
The attractiveness of Cloud Computing to small businesses begins with the realization that, apart from the local purchase of hardware such as PCs or physical site modifications to business, the often substantial overhead and operational costs are shifted to the Cloud Provider.
On the Cloud, access to business software and other applications is included in the previously agreed-to monthly service fees. Instead of having to deal with updating or migrating to other software, the small business always has access to the latest versions of everything it needs to stay on top.
Another advantage offered by Cloud Computing is that, since Cloud applications are either browser-based or are presented to the end-user in a familiar GUI format, training time is usually a matter of only a few hours for most daily business functions. You don’t need a MBA to realize that when employees aren’t being trained they’re being productive.
Every reputable Cloud Provider will be more than happy to work with small businesses to make sure that the business has everything it needs for success. And when that success comes, or during the occasional or seasonal downturn, Cloud Computing can always be scaled up or down to match each business’s current demand for services.
In summary, the many advantages offered by Cloud Computing make it well worth consideration by both established and start-up small business operations.
Robert McDonald is a journalist with a longtime interest in computer applications for small businesses. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.