15 January 2014

Benefits of cloud computing

Cloud computing can be beneficial for small businesses and start-ups as it allows them to manage without an expensive IT infrastructure.

Cloud computing can be beneficial for small businesses and start-ups as it allows them to manage without an expensive IT infrastructure.

For anyone unsure what cloud computing is, the ‘cloud’ actually refers to the internet, so cloud computing is essentially internet-based computing. Here are some of the benefits it could bring to your business. 

Low maintenance

When you sign up to cloud services, you can use the software you need for your business without having to worry about the installing or maintaining the technology or having a server. You don’t even have to download updates or keep it secure as this is something which will be sorted out by the company providing your cloud service. This makes cloud computing a simple and low-maintenance alternative to the expensive suites of software businesses traditionally used to invest in.

Reduced costs

In the past, businesses needed to invest substantial sums of money in software, which would become out-of-date and need replacing in a few years’ time. With cloud computing, you avoid a large up-front expense and you only pay for what you need. You typically pay a monthly fee per user for the software you use, so you can factor the cost into your budget and you can easily scale up or down as the needs of your company changes.

As you are effectively outsourcing your business IT needs and hiring your software, you can use the most current versions and spread the cost. You also don’t have the expense of hiring your own staff to manage your IT.

Supporting flexible working

Another key benefit is that the software can be used anywhere.  You simply need to log on to your account from any device with an internet connection. This allows you and/or your staff to work from home and while travelling, so they can make more efficient use of their time and use their own devices.

You can create a cloud workspace where your team can work on documents and presentations and share access with their colleagues and even your clients and suppliers, making communication and collaboration simple.

Are there any risks?

As with everything, there are some drawbacks and risks. One of the main risks is data security. Make sure you use a reputable provider and that your data is kept secure.  Another risk is loss of service. If your provider has downtime issues for example, your company will not be able to use the software/applications or data you have on the cloud.

 Tips for getting started

1. Choose a provider you can trust

If you’re going to be outsourcing your IT for business, make sure you pick a reputable and reliable company. Good providers should explain their security methodologies and give you a Service Level Agreement, outlining their commitment to you.

2. Pick a solution because it is right for your business

Look carefully at what the service offers and whether it ticks all the right boxes for your company. Don’t use something just because everyone else is, or it seems fashionable. Some popular technology may have no use for your company so draw up a list of what you actually need and find a solution which matches it.

3. Find out where your data will be stored

Remember to ask cloud computing service providers where their servers and storage actually are and whether your data will always remain in these locations. It is a good idea to pick a company which will store your data in the UK as then it will be protected by the Data Protection Act.  It is the law that some types of business must store data within the EU. You should also ask providers how they will store and protect your information and request a copy of their security policy.