Michael Barber, marketing manager at software company Sage, shared his ideas on why Cloud Computing solutions are beneficial to small businesses with our sister site, BusinessZone.co.uk.
Why should small business owners consider moving to the Cloud? What are the advantages?
Flexibility is one of the key benefits of any Cloud-based service. The definition of the workplace has changed dramatically over the past five years, and for many small business owners the office is no longer a desk at a specific location, it’s wherever they happen to be. Cloud services make it possible for business owners to get anywhere, anytime access to all the information they need to run their businesses. Similarly, if you need to allow a third party to view information, then holding that information in a central location like the Cloud offers the additional flexibility to do that.
A lot of small business owners are also turning to the Cloud because they see it as hassle-free technology. You can be up and running in a matter of minutes, plus there’s no need to worry about maintenance or upgrades since all of these are delivered automatically and in the vast majority of cases, free of charge.
Is the Cloud suitable for all types of business?
Interest in Cloud computing has exploded over the past two or three years, particularly among the new generation of web-savvy businesses and entrepreneurs who have been the early adopters of this technology.
Whether cloud is right for your business can depends on your needs. If you need to access information on the move, or outside working hours, then the flexibility of a Cloud service will make this possible. On the other hand, if your business is highly specialized, and you need a very customized solution to fit your needs, then a purely cloud-based service might not be the right option.
Some entrepreneurs express concern about security issues when using software-as-a-service products. What’s your response?
Cloud is still an emerging technology, so any business owner looking to use an online service should undertake careful security due diligence before taking the plunge. The best Cloud service providers take great measures to ensure that data is kept within secure environments that only you and your authorized users can access. In fact, the economies of scale mean that a Cloud service provider can often provide far greater levels of security than a small business owner could afford to implement on their own.
The breaches at Amazon and Sony have put Cloud security under the spotlight, but these are really exceptional cases. Companies offering Cloud-based solutions know that the viability of their business depends on their ability to retain the trust of their users, so data security is generally the number one priority.
Quentin Pain, founder of on premise software company Accountz, recently claimed that businesses offering Cloud solutions are using the model as an excuse to hike up prices and “rip off” customers. What do you think?
For a lot of start-ups and small business owners, cash is at a premium, so the monthly pricing model is well suited to business owners who want to spread costs and manage their cashflow.
It’s also important to view the monthly fee within the context of what Cloud services offer in alongside the core product itself. Convenience is a major benefit of the Cloud, and the ability to be up and running in minutes with no installation charges and no maintenance fees offers potentially significant savings.
Subscribers to Cloud-based services also have guaranteed access to the most up to date version of the product they are using for as long as they want or need. If upgrades in functionality become available, they are delivered overnight and at no cost to the user. Likewise, if technology or business requirements evolve, the dynamic nature of the Cloud model can adapt with those changes to ensure the existing service remains fit for purpose. That’s not the case for desktop software.
The monthly fee is also well-suited to fast-growing start-ups who can’t be sure how quickly they might outgrow their existing IT infrastructure or services. These businesses want the flexibility to grow quickly without the requirement to make regular and significant investments in infrastructure.
What your three top tips for how entrepreneurs can get the most of out of Cloud Computing solutions?
- Try before you buy – Most online services offer a free trial, so use this to try out the software and compare with what else is available on the market.
- Look for hidden costs – Be wary of any cloud service provider that tries to tie you into a long-term contract, or attempts charges for extras and upgrades. Upgrades should come free and as standard, and the pricing model should give you the flexibility to cancel your subscription at no extra fee if your circumstances change.
- Check what support is available - It’s important to have the peace of mind that if something goes wrong, or you have question, there will be someone at the end of the phone to help you – whenever you need them.