Is it more cost effective for my small business to move to a cloud solution?
Should You Move Your Small Business to the Cloud?
Before you dismiss the cloud as a lot of vapor, though, listen to what three small-business people told us about their experiences with it:
• “We saved over $4000 in up-front costs by moving to an entirely cloud-based solution [for e-mail, Web hosting, virus protection, and more]. We were also able to substantially reduce our power bill and the costs needed to maintain and upgrade hardware.” –Bob Everett, president, Bottom-Line Consulting, a three-person firm offering various small-business services.
• “As a non-IT person, I find cloud-based applications easier to set up and use than many [computer] applications, and I don’t need to rely on internal IT support as much for assistance.” –Cristina Martin Greysman, executive vice president, business development, Vuzit, a six-employee software company.
• “A power surge nearly destroyed our in-house e-mail server. Had we not recovered it, a great deal of historical knowledge and valuable information would have been lost forever, not to mention the lost productivity for days or weeks. Now we have a secure, redundant, cloud e-mail system we can access anywhere, anytime, with a consistent interface, and it’s made our business stronger.” –Kevin Hart, partner and founder, Hart-Boillot, a ten-employee marketing and communications agency.
To be sure, cloud computing has its shortcomings (more on that later); but small businesses looking to cut computing costs and improve efficiency during this long recession are finding the many benefits of Internet-based software and services increasingly attractive. In fact, companies with 100 or fewer employees are expected to spend $2.4 billion on cloud computing services in 2010, up from $1.7 billion in 2009, according to Ray Boggs, vice president of SMB research for IDC.
Here’s what you need to know about cloud computing: what it is, pros and cons, suggested services, and tips for applying it to your business.
What Does Cloud Computing Mean?
For decades, engineers have drawn a cloud to depict a network (such as the Internet) whose inner workings were unknown to them. From there, cloud computing evolved as a term to describe free or subscription-based services delivered in real time over the Internet.
Cloud computing can refer to software as a service, such as Salesforce.com for customer relationship management (CRM); to file storage, synchronization, backup, and other utility computing, such as Dropbox; and to infrastructure as a service, including Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud, which delivers customizable computing capacity over the Internet.