How can ‘cloud computing’ benefit small businesses?

Many people are predicting that 2011 will be the year that cloud computing goes mainstream. A key technology trend of the past few years, analyst firm Gartner has now predicted that cloud computing will be one of the top ten strategic technologies in 2011.

Here Steve Ball (details below) looks at why small and growing businesses should embrace the cloud, and how it can help revolutionise their IT:

Many businesses are exploring how the ‘cloud’ can help their organisation to grow and develop. In simple terms, the ‘cloud’ refers to the internet, and ‘cloud computing’ is when resources, data or software are accessed via the internet rather than being stored on PCs or servers.

However, a number of small and medium sized businesses have, until recently at least, viewed cloud computing as something which isn’t really relevant to them. Often without the time and resources to fully explore these the new technologies, many growing organisations are unaware of the numerous benefits that cloud computing can offer.

Some benefits of cloud computing

One key way that cloud computing is appealing to SMEs is its cost effectiveness. Rather than buying a large server that you may never fully utilise, having cloud-based technology means you rent exactly what you need. This also makes it a much greener way of managing IT, and hugely efficient in terms of space allocation, as businesses no longer need to store often bulky server systems in-house.

Affordability in terms of up-scaling your operation is also central to cloud computing’s offering and this is core to SMEs’ IT needs. Business growth is crucially important, particularly in the current economic times as businesses are under increased pressure. Businesses that are using a cloud model and which experience quick growth are far more able to easily and cheaply up-scale their IT provisions without needing to re-invest in expensive new infrastructure. Cloud computing is highly scalable and grows with the business, removing any IT-based barriers and restrictions on business development.

While growth is central to many businesses, another way we are seeing organisations change is a trend towards more flexible and mobile working. Cloud computing is designed to be used remotely – whether staff are in the office, working at home, on site or on the go – they can still easily and reliably access data and software.

No matter when staff are accessing material stored in the cloud, the model means data is safe and secure. Instead of saving data and programmes on a server in the office, working with a data centre means that your valuable information is saved in the safest possible environment. Disaster recovery and back-up strategies are key to many businesses’ contingency plans, and embracing the cloud means you have a far more robust strategy in place to protect documents and important information.

For these and many other reasons, the cloud is arguably one of the most significant technologies for businesses in recent years. This exciting development however is not just for large companies, and SMEs can benefit enormously from the technology, which often allows smaller companies to compete on more of a level playing field with larger organisation.

From affordability to easily up scaling, supporting flexible working to securing your businesses’ vital data, cloud computing’s offerings to growing businesses can help to drive forward IT strategies and embrace efficient new ways of working. Cloud computing offers an exciting opportunity for many organisations to improve not only their IT provisions, but also to bring in new efficiency improvements across the business as a whole.

About the Author

Steve Ball is Managing Director of Cloud 9, an Oxfordshire based provider of IT services to SMEs. Cloud 9 runs the only commercial data centre in Oxfordshire, and works with many organisations to, amongst other things, help them take advantage of the benefits of cloud computing.

Bytestart Limited info@ByteStart.co.uk

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