Whether you’re opening your doors for the first time or trying to take your business to the next level, one technology that could help you achieve your goals is cloud computing. Recent advancements in cloud computing have generated both significant interest and investment from organizations seeking a more cost-effective, productive and secure approach to managing their infrastructure.
This is the time to implement innovative ideas to improve the flexibility and long-term stability of your business. The potential benefits of cloud computing create a more efficient and responsive approach to conducting business, allowing you to focus on your customers.
What is cloud computing?
Believe it or not, your business could already be using cloud computing. A simple definition refers to cloud computing as services provided over the Internet, such as e-mail, Web hosting and data storage. Cloud computing has evolved from these traditionally used services to more complex services like customer relationship management tools and marketing programs.
One of cloud computing’s primary advantages is drawn from economies of scale; providers of cloud computing handle all the overhead, security concerns and software or hardware updates, while providing you the core capabilities necessary to get your work done. By spreading costs over many customers, cloud computing providers can often offer services at a lower cost per month than if you managed it on your own.
How can cloud computing help?
We’ve only scratched the surface of the benefits and implications cloud computing have for the small business. Here are five more reasons to consider working in the cloud.
1. Reduced costs and increased scalability
Cloud computing gives your business the option to ramp up what you need, when you need it. Gone are the days of hiring a gaggle of IT employees and investing heavily in infrastructure only to wonder later if you just saddled your company with too much too soon. Working in the cloud lets you pay for the systems and storage that fit you now. And it’s easy to scale up services as you grow from a company of four to 400 to 4,000, or ladder down in a crunch if necessary.
Knowing the seasonality of your business can save you even more money. If you own a ski rental shop in Vermont, it’s probably not necessary to keep the same infrastructure costs during summer when your business inevitably slows down; you can lower the amount of server space since your website, databases and inbox won’t be filling up as fast. With cloud computing, you can pay for what you need, when you need it, and save money when you don’t.
2. Automatic updates
What’s more frustrating than investing in a suite of software for your business only to find out in short order that the developer just released a great new upgrade? Now you have to spend an inordinate amount of time installing the new system and hope that you don’t break something in the process. When you pay for cloud computing, the service provider pays for all upgrades and installations, giving you the latest and best options automatically. Cloud computing providers employ armies of people whose singular focus is to manage these details while you focus on running your business.
3. Remote access
Running a small business is a 24/7 job, so naturally, you should be able to access all of your valuable data wherever and whenever, too. Whether you simply need to open a report or you’re away from the office and need to quickly find your customers’ contact information, cloud computing makes it easy. You just need an Internet-enabled device (think mobile phone) to access documents, customer-relationship-management programs, or anything else you store in the cloud.
The cloud lets you do substantive business on the fly and leaves tricky issues like security to the experts employed by those companies. And with technological advancements, now if your Internet connection is unavailable, some cloud computing services allow you to work offline and then simply synchronize your files when you reconnect.
If you’re keeping your work in the cloud, it becomes significantly easier to connect cloud applications together. Think, for example, of service technologies acting as building blocks; a small business can take what they need from whichever provider they prefer, and customize their own system. Maybe you’d like to use a cloud-based document creation and storage service and combine it with Salesforce.com customer relationship management tools. No problem.
5. More time to focus on your customers
Your time is better spent cultivating customers, getting to know and understand their needs, and then executing beyond their expectations. Leave the technical know-how to the cloud-computing folks. They can design the infrastructure and software, host your website, build a database, provide tech support and implement software updates all while you keep your head down and focus on what’s most important for your business.
What about cloud printing?
Have you considered the total cost of owning high-end printers in your workspace? One-time upfront machine costs often obscure the gradual but significant ink and paper costs you incur each and every time you print.
We’re constantly innovating at FedEx and are big believers in cloud solutions ourselves. So we created FedEx Office Print Online, which allows you to print directly from your desktop or connect seamlessly to cloud-based document services. It lets you print on premium papers—even get your presentations professionally bound—and still save money at the home office by eliminating seldom-used printing supplies and high-end printers with pricey replacement-ink cartridges. Plus, your entire organization can work collaboratively from the same documents, accessing them or printing them when needed so everyone is on the same page.
Next time your business needs new software or a bigger server, consider the cloud. It can simplify your IT needs, reduce costs, provide your business with updated software and deliver easily accessible storage. Best of all, you can focus on what’s most important, building a successful business.
Anthony Norris is vice president of product and e-commerce at FedEx.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of FedEx.
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