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Cloud Connected: Why Small Businesses Need To Embrace the Virtual

Cloud computing or cloud network concept According to a 2014 estimate, approximately 37 per cent of American small businesses cut the cord and embraced cloud computing. Predictions for 80 percent by 2020 seem less fantastic and more factual as time goes by. That’s not difficult to believe; you might even be cloud connected yourself and not realise it! For instance, do you Google? Gmail? Google Drive? Congratulations! You cloud! You use Facebook and Twitter to interact with fans of your business?  You created a website for your business? Guess what that means! As strange or intimidating as it might seem, cloud computing simply means a shift from the physical to the virtual: Servers no longer exists in some cooled room in your offices; they sit miles, counties, or even countries away. Your data is stored off-site. Your software is uploaded outside of your walls. Instead of a physical copy of the program, you pay a licensing fee to access and use whatever features you need to successfully operate your business.


Look at Office 365: Instead of installation onto your system’s hard drives, you obtain access to the programs from another location. Your storage options range from your traditional locations: Your PC, a flash drive, or in the cloud with a virtual storage capacity. You sign in, you work, and you can do both from anywhere with authorisation and Internet access! The benefits of cloud computing almost jump at you: You find yourself able to instantly take advantages of new innovations for your apps and programs, including start-ups, betas, and upgrades. You can scale the amount of product you use to meet your needs (and budget) without a sacrifice to the quality of your software. See? The potential for big-name service, tied in directly to small-time personality. This sort of standardisation levels out the once horribly uneven tech field for players in both big and small business. [Tweet "The benefits of cloud computing almost jump at you."] You get a chance to compete on a grander scale than you might with in-house materials at a fraction of your traditional cost – and with a greater safety net! Your hardware costs dwindle: Equipment, maintenance, upgrades and support, utilities to run the things: Each becomes reduced as you no longer store your data in-house. What’s that? More safety? Cloud computing digital concept One of the primary concerns for cloud computing is the necessity of effective cyber security. “Cloud” means everything is Internet-based, capable of anywhere/anywhen access from a Wi-Fi capable device. Chances are good these devices also check personal email accounts, social media posts, messenger apps, and who-knows what other websites. While reputable cloud service providers (CSPs) will do what they can on their end, the first – best – only – step your company can take is: Train your people. What good is a quality antivirus program or 12-character, captcha encrypted passcode if someone clicks a scam SPAM that opens your systems – and, subsequently, your cloud – to anyone? And what if your cloud opens the door for remote access to your data or your virtual offices? call-to-action-810x75-c See, approximately 43 per cent of American workers worked remotely at some point or another in 2017. Part of this trend came from the ability of workers to access necessary materials outside the office. While this flexibility offers them the opportunity to take their business to the park, it gives you, the administrator, the means by which you can track and manage the individual progress your employees’ progress. You can invest less time into investigations of who performs above, below, and at par. In fact, this shift from hardware allows you to move more into personal interactions, not just with your employees but with your clients as well. Just as you can focus on employee performance, you can now devote more time and resources to understanding your customers’ behaviors and deciphering insights to better serve them and improve your relationships. Service providers, for their part, monitor, maintain, and update their security measures in a way that no small business would be able to undertake – or afford. These measures move beyond the virtual to the physical: Power outages, equipment failures, and human error occur outside of your business. CSPs make it a point to install redundancies to back-up their main servers, practice high standards of security, and optimize their operations to best serve you. It all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Now for the downsides. Downtime? All control over that rest in the hands of the CSPs. Remember: You lease the software and access it online, not from your desktop (exactly). You store you data in a system far from home now. You can’t exactly expect your IT person (if you employ one) to pop down and check the trouble! Your ISP – Internet service provider – might cause you trouble as well. If your bandwidth is too narrow, your connection too slow, or your provider suffers a dreaded outage, guess what you can no longer access…unless you created an in-house redundancy? Your cloud. Now, while you costs might see lower and you feel you can get by with just so much access, remember to read further into the details. What might you pay in the event you increase your storage? Could you double, triple your rates for the extra service and space? Ask yourself: Do you need each and every upgrade? By how much do you expect your data transfers to grow? Does CSP customer service cost extra (yes, it can, if you exceed your tier)? Be sure to watch yourself for cloud sprawl. You see so many potentially useful apps and programs and subscribe to them all – and face redundancies of your own, without benefit, often unused, unneeded, and expensive.  To help prevent this condition, do as you would with any physical assets and conduct an audit: See what you need, what you use, and what you can remove. Establish a policy for new cloud app adoption: You wouldn’t want everyone to sign up for the latest and greatest program without any sort of forethought, would you? Why not restrict those capabilities to certain user? Streamline your access based of responsibilities and seniority and keep your cloud surfing lean.