Thanks to cloud computing, businesses now have access to storage and computing power that was previously only available to large corporations. Cloud computing can help small businesses become more secure, efficient, and increase sales.
Explore what the cloud is, discover 12 great features it offers, and outline how much you should pay for it.
What is cloud?
Technically speaking, the cloud is a bank of remote computer servers that businesses can connect to over the Internet.
But it goes far beyond that dry definition. In the cloud, you can store data, run business apps, stream content, develop and deploy software, manage databases, and more, all for one low monthly fee. You have access to state-of-the-art computers without having to purchase or maintain them in-house.
A brief history of the cloud
Cloud is an old idea. Oracle launched the first cloud in 1996 with Network Computer (NC). NC had minimal specs. A central remote server stored files and ran software programs. However, consumers never mastered the technology and NC failed.
Change came slowly with the rollout of broadband internet. Salesforce began using the Internet to offer its customer relationship management (CRM) system through a browser. In 2006, Amazon began offering IT infrastructure services. This was the birth of Amazon Web Services. Later, Google, Microsoft, Oracle, CloudBolt, and others launched their own cloud services.
Cloud providers offer five main types of services:
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): These providers rent storage disks, equipment, IT networks, and servers.
Software as a Service (SaaS): Just as Salesforce CRM has done since 1999, SaaS companies offer end users predefined services such as top-tier accounting software and online document storage.
Platform as a Service (PaaS): These companies provide database management, operating systems, and development tools to create new services and apps.
Desktop as a Service (DaaS): DaaS is similar to the 1996 idea of networked computers, where files and programs are run remotely. (However, it is different from remote desktop software.)
Business Process as a Service (BPaaS): This includes automating tasks such as advertising, marketing, procurement, and payroll.
There are three types of clouds:
Public cloud: This is the cheapest option. Share your remote cloud server with other clients. It limits the types of apps you can run, making it more visible to cyber attackers.
Private cloud: With this option, you purchase equipment hosted at a provider's location and customize the hardware and software to your specifications. Private clouds have higher setup and maintenance costs, but cloud servers are not shared with other companies.
Hybrid cloud: This is a combination of public and private clouds. You can assign specific types of files and tasks to cloud servers (public or private) and internal IT networks. This is the most customizable and flexible arrangement, but it comes with a significant upfront cost.
Businesses can create the remote IT infrastructure they need by choosing the service and cloud type that best fits their needs.
How can the cloud accelerate business growth?
Here are 12 ways you can use the cloud to grow your business.
1. Increase productivity
Cloud computing improves productivity in many ways. For example, you can run reports in your accounting software to determine which products and services are selling best and which salespeople are generating the highest revenue.
Integration tools like Zapier and Make link the apps you use to run your business. This means you and your staff can work from the same dashboard, sharing and editing the latest customer, financial and performance data.
With accurate, up-to-date business information at your fingertips, you can easily discover and fix inefficiencies within your company.
2. Keep your business data up to date
Cloud computing makes it easier than ever to store data and records across all departments in a central location. Every time your business app accesses the central database, it gets the latest version. When database entries are added or modified, there is no need to manually copy the entries to other databases.
3. Protect your business data and documents
The latest cloud data encryption technology ensures that all data sent to and from your device is safe, even if it is intercepted by cybercriminals. This includes all documentation and all internal and external communications.
Rest assured that the cybersecurity measures your cloud provider has in place are better than any backup storage server you can set up on-premises. Because their reputations depend on their ability to store sensitive commercial and personal information for millions of individuals and businesses around the world.
If you want to use the cloud to safely store your files remotely, check out our reviews of top cloud storage and online backup services.
4. Scale as needed
Before investing in on-premises IT systems, you need to be sure that the full potential is worth the significant upfront investment. Additionally, planning and specification can take months.
Cloud computing is different. You can scale up or down your cloud services usage on the fly, paying only for the storage, apps, and computing power you need.
Cloud technology is much better at adapting to a company's changing needs than on-premises IT infrastructure, and it's much cheaper.
5. Take advantage of big data opportunities
Small business IT networks have traditionally lacked the storage and computing needed to process big data. Additionally, very few small businesses have in-house data scientists.
You can now choose from a variety of pre-built data analysis tools to extract actionable insights from your enterprise data. Plug-in tools from companies like Akkio and Arize AI can reduce customer churn, predict deal size, optimize sales funnels, detect fraud, and provide predictive maintenance for equipment and machinery for a small monthly fee. Helps establish a schedule.
6. Benefits from improved team collaboration
Cloud collaboration tools like Slack allow you to create closed departmental or project groups. You can then link Slack to the project management tool Trello to show individual team members the tasks they need to complete.
Both tools can be linked to Gantt apps like ClickUp to assign tasks based on individual or entire team progress. These apps are synced so you and your team have the most up-to-date information.
7. Automate more tasks
Automating tasks through the cloud reduces the workload of your employees, giving them more time to be productive. Productivity software plans the work needed in the coming days and weeks and alerts team members long before deadlines arrive, so staff can accomplish more and manage day-to-day management. The need for
For example, a content planner can help your marketing team get a month or two ahead of time with the blogs and social media posts they need to create. Create custom her one-off artwork and images for your content using our AI image creation tool. Then, use an app like Buffer to upload your content at a specified date and time.
HR apps can now automate hiring, payroll, and annual reviews. For example, RoboTask records mouse and keyboard actions to make it easier for administrators to open documents, handle automated backups, and run applications.
8. Save money
Cloud apps can help you save money in two ways, and you can use that extra money to grow your business.
First, cloud technology eliminates the cost of IT infrastructure, hardware, and software. This saves money on your electricity bill and is a great way to show your customers that you can be socially responsible and earn more money at the same time. Second, the cloud can automate routine tasks that previously had to be performed by humans, thereby reducing the need for workers.
With most cloud apps, you only pay a monthly fee (although some may charge for features).
9. Hiring fewer programmers and IT staff
The less physical IT equipment you have on-premises, the less human resources you need to maintain it. If you use a cloud service provider, all you need to do is send an email to their customer service team to get your services up and running.
Want to make your apps work together? If you don't know how, you can hire a freelance programmer to do it for you. It costs money in the short term, but the benefits are long-term.
10. Expand employee availability
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced millions of Americans to work from home. According to a McKinsey report, 87% of employees who are allowed to work from home at least one day a week take advantage of the opportunity. If this trend continues, top talent may choose to only work for companies that embrace this type of flexibility.
11. Prepare for business interruption and cyberattacks
A fire, flood, or cyber attack in your business can cripple your company for weeks. But if you use the cloud to store most of your data and run most of your apps, you can continue working while you recover from these disasters.
Many business owners fear so-called ransomware attacks, where hackers block access to systems and data and threaten to wipe both if business owners don't pay up. Neutralize that threat and keep it out of the reach of cybercriminals by automatically backing up your data and files to the cloud every few minutes. [Learn more about how to prevent a cyberattack.]
12. Leverage e-commerce
Cloud services like Webflow, Wix, and Squarespace allow even beginners to build functional, polished, and beautiful websites. Business owners can also link these websites directly to cloud or on-premises CRMs, databases, and other business management software to track sales, items left in inventory, payment and shipping status, and more.
Need help creating an e-commerce store? Learn more about how to set up your online store.
Cloud hosting service providers can also assist with search engine optimization to give your site the best chance of being visible to searchers. Cloud software like Jasper allows you to create blogs and product descriptions that rank higher in Google search results. [Learn more about how to build a successful SEO strategy.]