Many small businesses are realizing that cloud computing can deliver significant benefits for their costs and utilization. More investment, more growth, and the ability to learn and innovate has increased the interest in this technology. However, many small businesses still face a host of challenges if they are going to use cloud computing without impacting their bottom line.
In this article we’ll talk about why companies choose it as well as how it can be used effectively in order to reap maximum gains from its advantages. We will also cover some of the most important considerations when using cloud initiatives for your business today.
In this article we’ll discuss the following aspects of cloud computing and how they are relevant to small business:
Small businesses have seen tremendous growth in the past decade. Globalization, technological advancements, and an increase in entrepreneurship have brought unprecedented opportunities for small businesses to get in front of a larger customer base than ever before.
Cloud computing technology can help companies improve efficiency, reduce costs and increase cloud computing adoption.
These are some of the main advantages small businesses everywhere are taking advantage of:
Reduced capital expenditure on hardware and IT infrastructure. Cloud computing does away with the need to purchase servers, storage, backup solutions and other equipment that can be expensive for many small businesses. The cloud provider is responsible for managing the servers and maintaining them as well as upgrading applications that have been migrated to the cloud from time to time. This means you will be able to use your capital for other programs including marketing, training, expansion or investment in other areas of your business. This has led to greater opportunities for growth and better profits for small businesses everywhere.
Better security. Cloud providers maintain the most updated anti-malware technologies at all times. Small businesses are not able to keep up with the amount of updates necessary to protect themselves from cyber threats. Further, they do not have the internal staff resources to do so either. Cloud providers use an array of solutions including patches, firewalls, and malware protection that is updated in real-time as well. This helps small business owners avoid breaches and incidents that can expose their customers’ information and lead to a loss of trust and traffic on their website or during customer interactions such as a phone call or email.
IT expertise on demand and scalable capacity. Small business owners are constantly busy with the daily demands of running their business. Not only are they managing their business but they also have to manage digital technology on the side to keep up with things like website maintenance, email and social media. With cloud computing, you can still access IT support services to help grow your business when needed. You don’t have to worry about finding IT staff that can work around the clock for you anymore because Cloud providers are always there for you 24/7 if your business needs it.
Accelerated innovation. Small businesses with an uncertain future may be hesitant to take risks moving forward without a certain source of revenue and customers coming in large amounts every day through their website or through new sales endeavors. Cloud providers offer services around the clock so your business can collect information, measure performance and make decisions based on actual data points from multiple sources. This enables small businesses to have transparency and trust in their data and make sound decisions that can accelerate their growth.
Easier business management. Anna from Marshmallowfox, says, “Cloud computing technology has made it easier for small businesses to maintain operations without bogging down their internal resources on IT maintenance or security issues”. Cloud providers maintain updated anti-malware tools, backup solutions, server monitoring software and other tools that protect your business all the time with minimal effort on your part.
Cloud computing helps small businesses achieve greater profitability by reducing their costs, increasing revenues and creating an environment for innovation that can drive better performance opportunities for growth.
Cloud Computing Challenges
In spite of these advantages, there are still several concerns and challenges facing small businesses that prevent them from taking full advantage of cloud computing. These include:
Costs associated with migration and data management. Data migration is a concern for some companies, especially as it relates to whether the new model will be more expensive or even more efficient than the one they have right now. The reality is that it will take time to decide on a cloud provider, make the changes, and implement them. Cloud providers like Amazon Web Services offer tools that have been designed with small businesses in mind such as Quick Start for AWS to accelerate your migration.
Data management. Even if small business owners are able to migrate data seamlessly, they will still need an organization in place to manage their data as they begin storing it on the cloud provider’s servers. This can be very challenging because many small businesses are not set up for central databases and IT staff may not be aware of this need and how this technology works. Businesses should consider hiring a consultant who can help them navigate this process and avoid the pitfalls that come with unsuccessful implementations.
Security gaps. There have been many instances in the news where small businesses have suffered a breach that has compromised their customer’s data, either through a lack of security on their part or because they were the victim of a cyber attack. Security is the biggest concern facing business owners and it will continue to be until enterprises are ready to take the necessary steps to protect themselves from attacks.
Migration challenges. Even if security concerns can be addressed and data migration costs are managed, there still is a lot of work that needs to be done behind the scenes before a company can reap the benefits of cloud computing. As mentioned above, all of your technology should be in place, properly funded and ready to support the new cloud application, including firewall updates and securing your data.
Cloud Computing Tools
When companies think about migrating to the cloud, they may feel overwhelmed by the amount of work that must be done behind the scenes before they can move ahead with their plan. However, there are many cloud computing tools that are available now that make it easier for small businesses to ensure their information is secure and their systems are protected from downtime and outside threats:
Amazon Web Services has a range of tools for small businesses that include AWS CloudFormation for configuration management and deployment automation as well as Elastic Beanstalk for rapid deployment of apps.
Amazon CloudTrail logs system events and application activity, helping IT professionals track security incidents, staff access, and errors.
AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) helps small businesses identify their users as well as grant them access to appropriate resources in the cloud.
Amazon Shield is a simple add-on tool for AWS that allows organizations to handle third-party applications like Salesforce in order to secure sensitive information by managing trust between applications.
Amazon WorkDocs is a collaboration platform that makes it easy for customers to edit documents together without requiring any sign-ins or passwords. It even includes a collaboration management console that can manage policies and compliance across departments.
Loki Workplace is a browser-based app that allows companies to manage their employees’ time and attendance, time off and other policies. It uses mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets as well as desktop computers to help employees stay organized and productive at all times.
Additionally, Amazon has several other tools that help small businesses, including:
Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud is a service that enables the cloud provider’s customers to build virtual machines for use on the company’s network for server applications or platforms. It can be used in conjunction with Amazon’s storage service, AWS Storage Gateway.
Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS) enables companies to send notifications to customers, often via text messaging or email, according to the Amazon Small Business website.
Cloud Computing for Small Businesses
If you’re thinking about moving your company’s operations to the cloud, these tips should help:
Consider technology infrastructure. Before you decide whether to move your business forward with cloud computing, make sure you have the necessary technology infrastructure in place. This includes installing a firewall along with anti-spam and anti-virus software. If possible, match the firewall service levels offered by the cloud provider you will choose and make sure your tools are compatible with its platform before signing up for an account.
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