Cloud computing is without a doubt the IT trend that has brought the most benefits to small businesses. We live in a global business environment and up to now small businesses had difficulties in competing with the big players, as they could not afford to absorb the costs associated with the necessary IT capabilities.
Cloud computing has changed all that, as I have already discussed in my previous post, Cloud Will Allow the Smallest Companies to Compete against the Largest. And now I would like to share with you what I think are the 5 key ways a small business can use the cloud to get ahead and play with the big boys.
- Communication is probably the most obvious and whether talking about email, instant messaging, phone systems or video conferencing, the cloud has the answer. No more expensive phone calls to the other side of the world, voice over IP technology means you can now direct all calls over the cloud and save up to 85% of phone bills. Online video conferencing means you can now “meet” clients all over the world without having to leave your office, actually never having to leave your home if you don’t want to. Hosting your email in the cloud, with someone like Google, means massive savings on storage space and instant messaging takes you that step further and would reduce even the need to send emails as nothing can beat real time conversation.
- File Sharing allows users to access together digitally stored information which could be documents, videos, computer programs. This solves the problem of those pesky little, or not so little, attachments going back and forth between members of your team and clogging your email system and delaying work. Also, it allows for better collaboration with clients, who can be given access to the files they need and they can get involved while the work is being done.
- Software is usually not cheap and buying something like MS Office for each employee is a sizeable cost for a small business. Again, cloud has the answer by allowing users to access business applications and collaborate online. And the good news is that many of them are free, starting with solutions like Google Apps.
- Back up is important for any business and for a small business it could be very expensive to invest in their own back-up systems. And it is not a good idea to go without any back up at all, as imagine that one morning all your business critical data are gone and you have no way to recover it. Again, the cloud has the answer, with quite a few cost effective back-up solutions tailored to any requirements.
- Cloud based CRM provides a small business with a great cost effective tool for the management of its relationships with clients, customers and prospects. And a better organized business is a more competitive business.
These are only a few of the ways a small business could benefit from the cloud, but there are others as well, each helping to level the playing field and give everyone a fighting chance in today’s increasingly competitive global market.
Photo source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1060296.