Everywhere you look, vendors are enticing businesses to make a move to the cloud. However, is the cloud good for small businesses? From cloud–based SaaS (software as a service) to the complete migration of servers and their computing power to an offsite location, organizations have more options than ever. But is cloud computing the right move for small businesses? More importantly, is it right for your small business?
What is the Cloud?
More than likely, you have heard quite a bit about the cloud. However, the term has become increasingly broad. On one end of the spectrum, simply sending an email with Gmail is an example of interacting with the cloud.
On the other end, some companies are moving their servers and most of their computing operations offsite and into the cloud. This wide range of cloud services offers small businesses more cloud-based options than ever before.
Cloud services are becoming an increasingly large part of IT services. Spending on various public cloud services is expected to reach $482 billion in 2022. However, that is still only a small percentage of total information technology spending which is expected to grow to over $4 billion worldwide. Much of this spending can be attributed to large companies with IT budgets in the millions. However, as the cloud continues to develop, there are more opportunities than ever for small businesses.
What Are Some of the Cloud Options for Small Businesses?
Right now is an excellent time for small businesses interesting in moving to the cloud. There are more services available than ever. Many of them are inexpensive enough for even the smallest company to get started yet scalable so they can continue to grow with the business.
Many small businesses are already using cloud-based email services like Google’s Gmail or Microsoft’s Office 365. The next natural step is taking advantage of cloud storage options from Google, Microsoft, Dropbox, or others. Small businesses are also taking advantage of offerings in SaaS (software as a service).
For example, cloud-based software services can handle customer relations management (CRM) through offerings from Salesforce, HubSpot, and others. Businesses can use SaaS offerings for email with the help of platforms like MailChimp and Constant Contact.
Services like Dropbox and Microsoft’s OneDrive offer online file storage and sharing. Companies can even manage projects using SaaS options like Basecamp and Trello.
While it is currently possible to run many small businesses using “off the shelf” cloud services, there are even cloud options for more complex situations that require dedicated servers and computing power. Companies that used to require in-house servers can now move those computing processes, storage, and backups to offsite servers accessible through broadband internet.
What Are The Advantages of the Cloud for Small Businesses?
Of course, just because cloud computing is available doesn’t mean it is suitable for your business. So, what are some of the cloud’s advantages that may help you reach your business goals?
Especially for small businesses, it can be cost-prohibitive to gain access to the same level of computing power as larger competitors. However, with the cloud, businesses of any size can access the same level of hardware and software as much larger businesses while only paying for their own actual use of the system. SaaS providers maintain the latest hardware and are constantly improving their products, and small businesses can take advantage of this through affordable monthly or yearly fees.
Scalability is an essential feature for small businesses. Whether you need more computing power due to growth or even temporary demand, most cloud-based services make adding users, storage, bandwidth or features easy and cost-effective. Even better, if the need is only temporary, most make it just as easy to scale back.
Reduced Need for Maintenance and On-Site Support
Small businesses often lack the luxury of having full-time IT support. Even part-time or contracted help can get expensive when it comes to ongoing maintenance, upgrades, and troubleshooting. In addition, when companies with on-site systems defer maintenance and critical software updates, they put themselves at risk for increased downtime, data loss, and even cyber attack.
Greater Support Availability
Whether a small business is using a SaaS or hosting servers in the cloud, they will find, with most providers, a greater level of support than they can get in-house. Many providers have 24/7 customer support that can often troubleshoot and address issues right away, no matter the time or day.
The most trusted cloud service providers have plans in place to help you get back up and running in the event of a problem. Whether a natural disaster that forces a relocation or a cyber attack that takes out a business’s on-site computers, cloud services can help restore data and processes faster and get everyone back to work.
What Are the Disadvantages of the Cloud for Small Businesses?
While cloud services providers continue to improve their offerings, small business owners are still wise to know the disadvantages of moving to the cloud. There are some potential disadvantages to be aware of. These may convince some businesses to keep their data and processes on-site. Or, they may just lead decision-makers to ensure that these risks are mitigated.
Moving business services to the cloud requires a robust and reliable broadband connection. Loss of connection can mean loss of access to anything in the cloud. This is a critical consideration, especially for businesses in areas with limited access to high-quality connections. Companies that cannot afford any downtime may need to consider a backup connection via another provider to keep things moving during an outage.
Small businesses in segments with regulatory compliance requirements will need to check with cloud providers to ensure that services fully comply. This may involve issues such as accessibility, security, and reporting.
Many small businesses will find that moving to the cloud improves overall data security. Many providers have the latest technology and full-time personnel to protect their servers from cyber-attacks or other breaches. However, the size and visibility of some providers make them a tempting target for hackers. Even with the best systems in place, motivated bad actors will still attempt DDoS (distributed denial of service), malware, and phishing attacks. You will want to check with potential providers to understand the security practices and how your data will be protected.
Is a Move to the Cloud Right for Your Small Business?
Some small businesses may choose to keep their computing services in-house for many reasons. Still, if the trends are any indication, more and more companies will be moving to the cloud in the years ahead. Whether it is suitable for your business will depend on your priorities and unique aspects of your business.