What is Cloud Computing?
Cloud is simply a metaphor for the internet. In a nutshell, cloud computing is when IT software and services are delivered over the web and through a browser.
Cloud computing means businesses no longer need to purchase and look after their IT infrastructure in-house. This transfers the responsibility for IT maintenance, software upgrades and any system issues onto the service provider, allowing you to focus on your business instead of your IT infrastructure.
That’s why the cloud is especially appealing to small businesses, which have a smaller workforce and less capacity for time consuming and expensive IT maintenance.
Why this is good news for small businesses?
Cloud computing benefits small business in a number of ways: it provides a more flexible model both technically and economically. With cloud computing, you don’t have your own servers/hardware or software. The cloud model lets you pay-as-you go, so you only pay for what you use. So on one hand you have lower startup costs because you don’t have to purchase expensive equipment when you are getting started. On the other hand, cloud computing provides great scalability, since you don’t have to keep buying servers every time you add an employee or a new software system. It’s the scalability of cloud computing that makes it especially effective with quickly growing small businesses.
Where a small business can take advantage of cloud computing is in purchasing basic software like CRM, help desk, document management, email and more. Instead of purchasing hardware, buying software and hiring an IT professional to setup the hardware and install that software a small business can purchase software over the internet, typically with no installation required. Usually this means that you’ve got a monthly contract instead of a big advance purchase, and again, you don’t need to buy a server to host the software.
Things to think about…
Cloud computing providers should provide details about how they protect data and ensure regulatory compliance, and they should explain their policies to provide you with your data if you decide to terminate the service or if they go out of business. If you pay for a service, you should also get a service level agreement (SLA) from the cloud vendor. The SLA documents service requirements, supplies ongoing metrics to ensure these requirements are met, and provides remuneration should the vendor fail to deliver on the agreed metrics.