As the owner of an IT company, and an entrepreneur I’m often asked by entrepreneurs what they should put in the cloud. My answer is always the same: Everything, period. Why? The cloud is one of the few areas of technology where a small business or startup can access the same resources as large corporations. So stop asking “Why the cloud”, and start asking “Why not?”.
But with all the noise out there about the cloud it’s easy to lose sight of the real business benefits that the cloud can provide. To fully leverage the cloud for your business you must first know what it can do for you.
Investments in technology used to require anticipating how much the company could, or would, grow, and using that as a barometer to determine investment needs. For example say you were investing in a new server – you’d need to determine what your licensing needs were going to be now, and in the future, in order to maximize on the investment up front. Today, business owners have the ability to procure cloud services that meet their immediate needs, with the flexibility to scale up if their business takes off. Cloud elegantly supports the ebbs and flows of seasonality and new product introductions.
Although there are many benefits to “scaling up” with the cloud, equally important is the cloud’s ability to scale down. A small business requires the agility and flexibility to try new things, test, experiment and stretch. With the cloud, if any ventures don’t work along the way, scaling down can be as easy as cancelling a subscription.
There’s a common misconception that putting things on the cloud is risky, and that you should keep anything you don’t want hacked, on premise. A common way to overcome this mentality is to think of it like a bank. If someone gave you a million dollars cash 75 years ago, you may have stashed it under your mattress, doubting the bank’s ability to protect your investment. Today, you’d march that money directly to a bank because they’ve made huge investments in security.
Now compare that to the technical equivalent. With the scale that companies like Amazon and Google are putting resources into the cloud, they can provide security better and faster than any typical startup. Small companies can take months or years to even uncover a vulnerability, let alone fix it. By proactively monitoring for attacks and fixing bugs faster, cloud-solution providers deliver the secure experience that customers look for and anticipate, regardless of company size. Bottom line: Use cloud providers that are trustworthy and well know, or at least ask your IT provider who they are recommending.
Applications: Key business applications, like email and sales software, are the first logical cloud move. Cloud applications for services like email allow entrepreneurs to be efficient with their time, while maintaining access to critical company data from wherever they are.
Websites: There is no reason that your business website shouldn’t look and act like that of a Fortune 100 company. Cloud resources and hosting allow websites to be designed and built that scale to handle growing traffic, securely manage credit card information, or manage unexpected spikes in activity.
Cloud provides a chance for businesses to level the playing field. Take a long hard look at your technology budget (yes, you should have one), and make sure Cloud is in there.