Computing in the Clouds for Small Business

Many thanks to business and technology writer Carlo Pandian for contributing this post:

Everyone uses cloud computing services and many of us have been doing for some time – even if we weren’t entirely aware of it!  From Hotmail to Facebook, cloud computing has been a helpful tool for millions of people the world over to manage their personal lives and communicate with friends across the globe.  Cloud computing solutions for small businesses have however, been taken up more slowly, despite offering huge benefits.  Small firms in particular have most to gain from “the cloud”   So what is cloud computing and how can you benefit?

cloud-server

A typical cloud server

What is Cloud Computing?
Hotmail is a good example; it offers online access to your email account and allows you to access emails from any computer with an internet connection.  Unlike a desktop email software package all the data and any updates are dealt with remotely.  This is cloud computing in a very small nutshell.  New services, deliverable via the cloud, have been developing rapidly in the last couple of years or so.  Now, most software that you can install on your own computer can be found in cloud form.  From online accounting software, to media applications, the range is growing every day.  This has, in large part, been thanks to the rapid improvements in broadband capability in the last ten years and also to the explosion in popularity for mobile computing.   These days, if it can’t be done on the go, then it’s probably not worth doing!

File Share and Back Up
Data back up and online document storage is essential tools for most businesses and is now available in cloud form.  In the old days, data back-up meant a memory stick, or even (the horror, the horror) a floppy disk.  This type of storage was extremely vulnerable to loss, theft or damage.  Remote back up via an online platform removes these risks at one simple stroke.   There are an increasing number of providers who can offer online document storage and sharing options; Google Docs is one well known and well trusted brand, but there are other choices.  Check out Carbonite for a low cost and flexible option or Dropbox, which has been established for a number of years and is a firm favourite with many users.

Money Managing
Online accounting software offers incredible flexibility to small firms and the services on offer from Intuit are worth looking into.  Intuit is a world leader in providing small business solutions and the company’s range of accounting software is available in the old fashioned desktop variety and in the cloud version.  The latter allows small firms to keep records up to date and produce invoices on the go.  Most small business owners will immediately see the advantage of secure, online storage for their accounts along with the huge benefit in terms of time saving that cloud computing offers for those whose business keeps them out and about.

Small Screen Solutions
Online video conferencing facilities have been with us for some time now and there are a number of different providers.  SKYPE is well known and established in the field, although it has been designed specifically with the personal market in mind.  GoToMeeting is a good example of a more business focussed product in the cloud conferencing world.  There’s a free trial on the system and a range of different options to fit the needs of small, medium or larger businesses.  The basics package allows you to work effectively with colleagues or clients across the globe, while additional packages include one specifically designed to deliver training online, live and interactive.

The majority of cloud software available online comes with a free trial period which will allow you the chance to assess the usability of each system.  For many small businesses using cloud computing solutions will free up not only space on your hard drive but the most essential asset you have – time. From online accounting software to video conferencing the world of cloud computing frees up time for small businesses to grow.

Author Bio
Carlo_PandianCarlo Pandian is a business and technology writer and blogs on entrepreneurialism and latest technologies covering everything from user manuals on QuickBooks Online accounting software to tech driven organisational change. In his free time he likes cooking Asian and Italian food and inviting his friends for dinner.

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