Cloud Topics

A Small Business Guide to Cloud Computing

By Nicole Lim / March 20, 2020

Roadmap from one point to another point

Whether you know it or not, you probably use the cloud every day. The videos you watch on social media or emails you read on your phone are all accessed from the cloud. Small business owners are also able to leverage the power of cloud-based technologies and many have included them in their daily business practices.

In 2020, it’s estimated that 93% of businesses with 1,000 or more employees have adopted strategies that include multiple cloud computing technologies. In 2019, 50% of businesses with at least 1,000 employees claimed to spend more than $1.2 million on cloud-based services. In 2020, 74% spent over $1.2 million on both private and public cloud-related storage and technologies.

Cloud computing is a powerful solution for small businesses because it expands the products and services they can offer, while providing a secure and inexpensive way to store and organize data. Find out about the benefits of cloud computing and consider implementing these technologies into your small business to stay ahead of the competition.

What Is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is when resources, data, and computing power are available on-demand to users who don’t own the entire infrastructure. Companies can “rent” this space and access to this infrastructure to use in storage, networking, and application or software processing.

Cloud computing is a leading example of subscription commerce, whereby businesses can pay only for the services they need when they need them on a recurring basis, and avoid investing in all the technology architecture and maintenance locally.

The cloud exists on servers that are generally managed by a cloud service provider and not the user. Data is accessible to any party who has permission to access the cloud.

For example, when you store a document on a site like Dropbox, you may allow colleagues to view the file from the browser or download it. This allows for team collaboration and is an easy way to store reference documents.

Cloud computing is already used in many aspects of private computing and businesses can utilize this technology for:

  • Data storage and backup.
  • Accessing a variety of cloud services.
  • Hosting.
  • Leveraging new artificial intelligence or machine learning applications.

With cloud-based technologies, you can access software right when you need it from anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection.

Public, Private, and Hybrid Data Storage

When you use the cloud to store data, you choose from one of three different types of cloud services, including:

  • Public: When a business uses public cloud storage, data is stored off-site on an external platform through a cloud-based service provider.
  • Private: With private cloud-based storage, data is stored within the business’s own hardware, and without the assistance of a third-party.
  • Hybrid: A business may choose to use a hybrid of both private and public cloud storage when it hosts some of its own cloud-based data but uses a third-party service provider to store the rest.

Types of Cloud Services

With so many types of cloud services, business owners may find it hard to identify what types of services to implement. Depending on your business’s needs, you may consider selecting one or more of the following types of cloud technology services:

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): One example of an IaaS is an email provider. This infrastructure is a virtual interface that’s mostly used for development and testing or data analysis.
  • Platform as a Service (Paas): This platform is best for app or software developers because you can purchase storage as needed. You can use a PaaS cloud-based service to collaborate with other team members while coding and building on your project.
  • Software as a Service (SaaS): SaaS platforms are the most common because they host software, including email providers or customer management systems. When you choose software through a SaaS marketplace, data remains on the cloud but you can access the software from anywhere with an internet connection.
  • Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS): Since the loss of data and business disruption can be detrimental, you may want to implement DRaaS services to protect this data. These cloud-based services are dedicated solely to protecting data so you can eliminate downtime, even in a disaster or emergency.

Benefits of Cloud Computing For Small Businesses

As a small business owner, it’s important to understand the various benefits of implementing cloud computing services, including:

  • Flexible Access and Collaboration: With one user account sign-in, you can gain access to multiple platforms and software, from your tablet, smartphone, or laptop. Team members can collaborate on projects together through the cloud and communicate with no lag time.
  • Data Security: Data security is crucial for e-commerce and any other business that handles customer data. Cloud-based services are centralized and security permissions are set to authenticate users, making data storage more secure.
  • Efficiency and Compatibility: Cloud-based servers are efficient, so you and your collaborators can access projects and data quickly from most devices. You can pull updated data analytics at any time with many cloud-based services.
  • Scalability: As your business grows, it’s easy to increase cloud storage space and capabilities as needed. You simply adjust your subscription or find new/additional cloud service providers, and then have immediate access to the expanded cloud infrastructure or services you need, with no lag time for installation or added costs for maintenance and staffing locally.
  • Compatibility and Consolidation: With all your software and data hosted on the cloud, you can access anything you need all at once with one sign in. Implement several apps from the same cloud marketplace and access them as needed.
  • Cost and Time Efficiency: Small businesses profit from the cloud because it offers inexpensive yet secure data storage that can be hosted off-site. You don’t need to manage your own software, saving your business time.

Disadvantages of Cloud Computing for Small Businesses

While there are many benefits to implementing cloud-based technology into your small business operations, there may be some disadvantages. You and your employees may need some time to understand how this new technology works. There’s always a learning curve when you install new software or applications so be prepared for potentially reduced productivity while you and your staff get used to the updated software.

E-commerce customers expect certain features when purchasing software or apps, so be sure you understand the functionality of the cloud-based services and its limitations before investing. If you need advanced functionality and extended user access, the apps you purchase can get expensive.

Data accessibility and security are two of the most important aspects you’ll need to consider before investing in cloud computing software. Do your research on the apps you’re considering to ensure they fit into your operations and provide the services you’re looking for. Weigh the pros and cons of this software before you buy it.

Cloud computing may improve the way you do business and contribute to data security and organization. Before implementing cloud-based software into your everyday business practices, consider your company’s needs, software expenses, and the functionality of these services.