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.
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.
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.