A survey conducted by Microsoft in May, 2014, found that only 30% of small businesses were using cloud technology. This was a surprising statistic considering 60% of those surveyed believed that technology assisted their business in increasing revenue, and another 60% felt that technology helped them to compete with similarly sized and larger companies. The top three concerns about using technology, expressed by those surveyed, were: the cost of upgrading; security; and ease of accessing content from multiple devices. Cloud technology adeptly addresses two out of three of these concerns and enables small business owners to maximize their flexibility.
Cloud technology refers to centralized data storage on the Internet that makes it possible to access that data anytime, anywhere, and from any device. There are multiple benefits of using the cloud for your business. The cost for file storage, when compared to physical file storage, can be greatly reduced. It is easy to save files and access them on the cloud, even for non-technical small business owners. The cloud offers flexibility and scalability because how it is used can change as your business changes and grows. There is also a savings in updates and maintenance because most cloud applications automatically update themselves, versus having an IT person support your system.
Along with using the cloud for data backup and file storage, other benefits of using the cloud for your small business include being able to work from anywhere, anytime, and on any device. Having a versatile mobile office enables many small business owners to be more efficient in their practices. It also assists in communication and information sharing with staff, customers, and suppliers.
This article would not be complete without mentioning the top concerns associated with using cloud technology. Security of data stored in the cloud, and loss of control of that data, are the primary issues faced by those businesses using cloud technology. These are the same issues faced by small businesses when looking at outsourcing any tasks or information, and are addressed in the same ways – by asking questions and identifying with whom you are doing business. Knowing the following can aid in better security and control in the cloud: what data your business will upload to the cloud; what security requirements, such as HIPAA, may apply; how the data and services impact the daily operations of the business; and what requirements apply if or when the cloud service ends.
Understanding how the cloud can benefit your small business can aid you as a business owner in making those decisions to use this accessible, affordable, and versatile technology to increase your business profitability and success. As with any decision as a small business owner, it is important to research how this tool can improve your business practices, and which cloud applications will best serve your business.
Darcy Shaw, Program Coordinator, Del Mar College Small Business Development Center