December 20, 2014

Why Small Businesses Love Cloud Services

If anything’s beating out the skyrocketing growth of the mobile app market, I’d put my money on cloud services. These days, you can do everything in the cloud except your dry cleaning (or can you?).  Here’s a look at some of the industries and companies that are moving into the cloud computing services arena for small businesses.

cloud computing

Storage and Sharing

Remember hard drives–those clunky things that sat on your desk that you never remembered to use for backup? Well you can use yours as a doorstop now, thanks to cloud services that offer virtual storage. With these services, small businesses can back up data, share files online and designate a place for everyone to collaborate on project documents.

  • Dropbox allows for digitally storing documents and photos, with sharing capabilities for your team. Also has a mobile version.
  • Google Docs makes sharing a spreadsheet or word processing document easy, and you don’t have to keep track of emailed versions of documents.
  • Jungle Disk offers both personal and business desktop and server backup at a reasonable price.

Communication

We’re also moving away from hard-wired phone lines, thanks to Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) computer cloud services. Whether you use a traditional style VoIP phone, your computer or a mobile phone, using the Internet to stream calls can save small businesses a bundle.

  • Skype is well-known for its audio and video calls, and also has a mobile version.
  • Panasonic recently released its Cloud Business Phone System for businesses with 10 or fewer employees. It includes hardware (cordless phones at that) with VoIP.
  • Google Voice gives you one number for multiple phones, as well as virtual voicemail. Its Talk product lets you chat through your computer for free.

Other Business Cloud Computing Services

The list goes on and on. You can balance your business books with QuickBooks Online. Send faxes without a machine with BizCom’s cloud-based fax solution. Teach and take online courses at Udemy. If it’s not imperative that you do the task in-person, there’s probably a cloud version for it.

Going cloud-based for your small business can realize savings (compare paying a few dollars a month to back up your data versus buying a physical server that needs updating), give more of your employees access to important documents, and help you communicate no matter where you are.

Are There Thunder Clouds As Well?

While, yes, I’m all Suzy Sunshine about cloud computing services, be aware that by using them, you lose control of who manages your data. If you’re outsourcing, say, your backup to a third party, as CNN Technology notes, they may not take the extreme measures you would to encrypt data to prevent breaches. Could a jilted ex-employee of that cloud company take out his anger on your data? Could happen. Servers crash, even for larger companies like Sony, as CNet reports.

There’s no surefire way to prevent problems in the cloud, but here are a few ways to minimize your risk:

  • Have data backed up on multiple sources–your office computers, as well as one or two cloud backup services.
  • Discuss risk mitigation with your service provider. How do they protect your data?
  • For cloud-based communication, have a backup in case your Internet goes down in the middle of a sales call.
18 Comments ▼

Susan Payton - Awards Communication Mgr.


Susan Payton Susan Payton is the Communications Manager for the Small Business Trends Awards programs. She is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, an Internet marketing firm specializing in content marketing, social media management and press releases. She is also the Founder of How to Create a Press Release, a free resource for business owners who want to generate their own PR.

18 Reactions

  1. Better/cheaper alternatives to Jungle Disk – CrashPlan or Backblaze. Also, free alternative to QB Online (unless you absolutely need payroll) is Wave Accounting. Expensify also provides free receipt/expense tracking.

  2. Love this piece… I guess because I love the cloud for small business. I truly believe that it leverages the essentials and levels the playing field.

  3. Susan, you bring up some very important points. Small businesses have a lot to gain from moving to the cloud but it can come with risks. Because the likelihood of outages and security threats differ from one cloud to the next, here at Symantec we tell customers that their data security depends on their efforts too and not just squarely on the provider’s so a great list of recommendations on your part. I would add to educate employees on the latest threats and best practices so SMBs can enjoy the benefits without the risks of cloud computing.

    A recent Symantec blog post includes six tips for SMBs considering moving to the cloud. It has helped a lot of our SMB customers decide if the cloud is right for them, so I thought I’d pass it along: http://bit.ly/ueJMq9.

    Chris Halcon
    Symantec

  4. Susan:

    You need sunshine and not clouds if you want to dry your clothes! ;)

    I look forward to the day when I could get a tablet computer and then update, sync, and take backups without any other peripherals. I think that this will be the true “after PC era” as Steve Jobs predicted.

  5. I do find cloud computing as a great service, as I first heard it here. Isn’t it so risky to store important file, in a virtual storage?

  6. Wayne: I use cloud storage with my business and I would say that regarding risk… it depends. Some methods of cloud storage are better than others. I would check with the provider, check out their website or call them if you have questions regarding security. For me & my clients, security is a compliance issue (I have a virtual accounting firm). For me the minimum is SAS Type II compliance/bank level encryption or even better HIPAA compliance level security.

    Hope that helps to answer your risk concerns. :)

  7. @Hun–
    Thanks for the suggestions!

    @Joyce–
    I really believe we’ll all be in the cloud in a few years. Thanks for the tips on risk!

    @Chris–
    I think anything has risk, so cloud’s really no different in that aspect!

    @Martin–
    Can’t we do that now??

    @Wayne–
    See my response to Chris!

  8. One thing I ask this question here and not in their website, is mainly because I want it to ask to those persons who’ve tried it.

    Well, Joyce thank you for answering back. Now I’m much more convince that the cloud storage are really great! Again thanks.

  9. @Susan – I’m totally with you and storage is just the tip of the cloud iceberg, in my opinion.

    @Wayne – come on over to the dark side! LOL. seriously, glad to be of assistance. it’s nice when my trials and tribulations with testing solutions for me business & clients have the side effect of helping others. :)

  10. Susan, Yes I think we could do it now with for example an iPad and iCloud, but I have tested it self yet.

  11. I’m curious now that cloud storage is becoming more accepted how long it will be before entire computing systems are placed into the cloud as with the Google Chromebooks. In this arena I may be ignorant of competition bit it seems like Google is leading the way with Cromebooks and the mobile browser experience of Google Chrome.

  12. Apologies for the typos – Android spellcheck isn’t the greatest.

  13. @Joyce–
    It’s interesting how more and more things are in the cloud without us noticing. Like Evernote. Amazon MP3. Lots of stuff I use daily.

    @Martin–
    Give it a try!

    @Phil–
    Good thought. When I got my Chromebook I felt weird, bc I couldn’t save to the desktop. I’m over it!

  14. I agree Joyce, the cloud turns the traditional approach to IT upside down, allowing us to compete in an equal playing field with multinationals, a total solution saving us a fortune!

    [edited by Editor]
    They really came through for us, here are the questions i put too these chaps with regards to backup solutions http://www.smallbusinesscomputing.com/buyersguide/article.php/3917026/7-Questions-to-Ask-Before-Choosing-an-Online-Data-Backup-Service.htm
    One happy tried & tested business owner!

  15. Nice post. I found this articles which compares Caspio, Amazon, Database.com, and Microsoft SQL cloud database services http://blog.caspio.com/web-database/comparing-cloud-database-services/

  16. One thing to note is there is a HUGE difference in consumer backup services, and business class services (such as say Tomahawk Backup) that support hot backup of files and of business apps such as SQL, VMware, Exchange, etc.

    For my personal/home systems I also use SugarSync. If you have multiple computers it does a nice job keeping them in sync.

  17. I am also using sugarsync for last two years working still for me for syncing data

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