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5 benefits of cloud computing for small and medium businesses

You’ve probably heard TV adverts or industry peers mentioning “the cloud” in relation to computing. But what is your understanding of the cloud as a tool for small and medium business?

With more and more companies utilising cloud computing, it’s important that you should understand why they are making the switch. After all, it is predicted that by 2017, 50% of companies will be using the cloud to some degree. And the same article suggests that 85% of new software today is being built for the cloud.

What is cloud computing?

In fairly basic terms, cloud computing is using a bigger company’s servers to host your information. Users will access the service through secure apps or Internet browsers, depending on the application.

To put it in simpler visual terms, it’s the computing equivalent of a car hire service, only you hire server space instead of vehicles. The car hire (cloud computing) company looks after the maintenance of all the cars in their fleet (all their servers). You pay for the use of cars on an “as-you-need” basis.

This gives you the capacity to “spin up” new servers (pay for extra cars from the lot), but you don’t have to pay extra for the maintenance (insurance, ongoing fuel costs). On the old model of localised servers, you could have to buy three cars in case your family needed them all in the future, which is as wasteful as it sounds!

But metaphors only extend so far. It’s probably time that we stopped messing about and dived into the proper benefits of cloud computing for small and medium businesses.

Flexibility

If you suddenly need more bandwidth than you previously used, there’s no need to invest in new local servers. You can simply upgrade your service to match your needs (like the car hire example). Similarly, downsizing can be achieved without servers lying unused. This level of flexibility is invaluable if you need to expand your operations or install new software.

Cloud computing becomes an incredibly powerful tool when you can “spin up” a new server in minutes without having to acquire and locate a physical unit. And with that power and flexibility comes the opportunity to compete with far larger organisations.

What’s more, because software is updated and maintained by the service provider, your employees can focus on using software safe in the knowledge that they have the latest, most secure version. This cuts your need to spend on resource for server maintenance and updates, which was estimated at 18 working days a month for a UK company in 2010.

Conclusion: save money on capital and resource, increase competitive edge

Security

It’s a staggering fact that almost a million laptops are lost or stolen in airports every year. Can you imagine how many are lost or stolen in bars?!? Well, a stolen laptop can spell bad news for sensitive localised files, but a company that uses a cloud solution can fall back on the remote storage aspect to minimise impact on everyday operations and security.

Even better: fire, floods and general acts of God will not have the potential to destroy your servers and leave you reliant on backups (you do have backups, right?). With your files in the cloud, all your data is safely stored on securely managed servers with virtually limitless backup capacity.

Research on disaster recovery points to cloud users bouncing back from disasters four times faster than non-cloud users. That’s a level of agility that more and more small and medium businesses are looking to enjoy.

Conclusion: reduce security risks but increase recovery times in worst-case scenarios

Accessibility

Cloud computing provides unforeseen potential for collaborations and employee flexibility. As your employees or affiliates can access software and date through any internet browser, they can gain remote access to your infrastructure whenever they need.

This application has obvious advantages for international organisations and partnerships, whose employees can work on projects in tandem or concurrently: collaboration has been found to deliver a heavy return on investment to the tune of 400%.

However it also has benefits for individual employees. The potential to work from home allows workers with family issues or childcare fails to remain productive, which makes for happier employees and better productivity.

Consider also that some business experts champion working from home as a way for small businesses to retain talented and driven employees. With savings on infrastructure overheads, reduced absence rates and many other benefits of working from home, you could be missing out on some wins.

Conclusion:improve document control, access and the potential for collaboration; work smarter

Efficiency

As you’re probably already gathering, there are an abundancy of efficiencies to be gained from cloud computing. We’ve already touched on scalability under “Flexibility”, but it also deserves an honourable mention here.

And the ability to scale your business up or down also reaps rewards for Mother Earth in energy efficiency. Businesses utilising cloud computing only use the server space that they need, which means a reduced carbon footprint.

As a result, cloud-using companies can make energy consumption and carbon emission savings of anywhere from 30% up to 90%, depending on the size of the organisation. The big news for small business is that the savings are bigger for smaller operations.

Conclusion: save the environment, save on energy costs

Economy

There’s very little need for capital expenditure when following a cloud computing model. It’s generally Pay As You Go (PAYG) and faster to deploy than the alternatives. That means your business benefits from minimal project start-up costs and consistent operational overheads.

This neatly ties in with the reduced need to continually update your software and maintain your servers. Throw in other resourcing and energy efficiencies as well and it’s clear that any company that uses a computer network could make large savings by relying on cloud computing.

Conclusion: add up all the savings and efficiencies above

Have we missed something? Drop us a line on social media if you think there are other pros or cons to using the cloud that we haven’t mentioned.

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