There are many basic ways a small business can benefit from cloud computing. Because the servers, applications and other infrastructure is housed remotely, your business is able to pay less for services you would otherwise have needed to install and maintain yourself. You can also take advantage of updates – both in hardware and software – again without requiring the technical expertise or added costs associated with common upgrades. Scalability is another area that benefits, both in number of users and amount of processing power as you can simply pay for the resources you use, without having to upgrade to a new server every time your business experiences a bump. Finally, as your offsite applications and services are, well… offsite, you have the ability to access them from anywhere, over the web or via a network. Portability is one of the huge benefits for businesses of all sizes.
But what are some real world examples of how small businesses can use cloud computing to their benefit? There are three major types of cloud computing: software as a service, file storage, and infrastructure as a service. Small businesses can use all of these to their advantage.
Backups – keeping and maintaining hard drive or tape drive backups can be time consuming, expensive and requires a lot of dedication. Using a web service, such as Syncplicity, a file synchronization, data backup and document sharing service, is an inexpensive and elegant solution for keeping your files backed up and store in the cloud. ProBack from Vortex is another. Each of these systems offers the ability to store files away from your business, for low costs, and requires little from the user in the way of technical know-how. Off-site storage also provides a level of redundancy missing when files are kept on-site.
Applications – Whether the application is Google Docs, a free web-based office solution that offers word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and drawing apps, or a CRM solution for your customers to use, it means lower set-up costs for your in-house I.T. department. One of the biggest advantages to software as a service is that as your business grows, your applications can scale up with it. There are web-based solutions for most common business applications, including accounting, billing, email, office programs and more.
Computing Power – For businesses lacking in processing power, or wanting to have the ability to instantly (and temporarily) increase their computing capacity via the cloud would benefit from Amazon’s Elastic Cloud Compute (Amazon EC2). This service creates different types of virtual machines, available when you need them (and costing you money only when using them), for all types of needs. You can use Amazon EC2 along with other services, such as Amazon Simple Storage Service and SimpleDB for scalable, redundant and reliable off-site computing power.