‘Cloud computing’. If you’re not tech savvy, you may not know what it is. With IT heavyweights such as Microsoft, IBM and Google, all investing millions of dollars into research, you’ll soon be using it though. In fact you probably already have without  even knowing, such is it’s growing prominence in the computer industry. For the small business owner still trying to get their head round the phenomena here’s a brief lowdown on what it is and, more importantly, how it can benefit your business...

What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing involves the network of computers that make up the ‘cloud’ handling the brunt of your applications and files. In short, hardware and software demands on the user's side decrease, so your computers won’t have to deal with as much.

The only thing your desktop, laptop or mobile device needs is to be able to run is the cloud computing system's interface software, which in most cases is just a mere web browser like Microsoft Internet Explorer or Google Chrome. The cloud network deals with everything else.

How can cloud computing benefit my business?

Cloud software can bring huge benefits with regards to convenience and efficiency, as it’s a type of software that provides access from anywhere with an Internet connection. That brings obvious benefits on a collaborative front, meaning that staff can work on mutual projects without the need for a desktop computer. You’ll also find that it’s cost-effective, offering an often cheap alternative to established staples of a small businesses armoury. 

Google Drive offer a free alternative to Microsoft Office, allowing users to create and keep their documents, presentations and spreadsheets in an online environment, thus reducing software costs. Accountancy  and recruitment too are increasingly moving to the cloud, reducing costs in these areas to small business owners and in many aspects increasing efficiency.

This all sounds too good to be true...what are the downsides?

The potential for breaches of security is often argued as a major flaw of cloud software, a worry being that it’s vulnerable to hackers. An obvious counterargument to this at companies offering cloud based services live and die by their reputations.

It benefits companies to have reliable security measures in place. Otherwise, they’d face the prospect of losing clients. The majority of providers  employ the most advanced techniques to protect client data, if they didn’t they’d not only face considerable embarrassment but also the loss of business. 

Research suggests that cloud computing is poised for strong growth, with worldwide cloud services projected to reach a revenue of $148.8 billion by 2014. It’s growing and now’s a good time to join the revolution. With the economic turmoil showing little sign of abating it offers a cost effective, efficient alternative to essential facets of a small businesses armoury that, in the past, used to involve a significant investment outlay.

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