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Cloud computing is without a doubt the technology trend that is creating the most buzz. Both Microsoft and Apple have developed products, marketing campaigns, and services that revolve around the cloud. Just ask anyone with an iPhone what the cloud is and they’ll talk about “iCloud” – Apples instant media syncing service. But what does the cloud mean to small business? And can small businesses even utilize it?
The fact is we live in a global business environment and up until now small businesses have had difficulties competing with the big players on a technology front as they could not afford to absorb the costs associated with the necessary IT capabilities that the larger company’s have.
Well cloud computing has changed all that, and will continue to. Here are a few example of how small businesses can start utilizing the cloud today in their environment:
- Communication is probably the most obvious and whether talking about email, instant messaging, phone systems or video conferencing, the cloud is providing more and more options for small business. 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% on 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 or Microsoft Hosted Exchange, means massive savings on storage space, and instant messaging takes it that step further, reducing the need to send emails as nothing can beat real time conversation.
- File Sharing allows users to simultaneously access 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. Also, it allows for better collaboration with clients, who can be given access to the files they need allowing them to get involved while the work is being done.
- Software is usually not cheap and buying products like Microsoft 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. The cloud is providing an array of solutions in this arena 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. As the price of this technology continues to fall and the barrier to entry is lowered, be prepared to see more and more small businesses utilizing cloud based technologies.