You’ve probably heard about the cloud. As noted by Small Business Trends, 93 percent of organizations are currently using cloud services, and 80 percent are following a cloud-first strategy. The solution offers huge potential to streamline SMB practices and drive ROI, but it also comes with huge hype that makes it hard to sort out what should be a simple question: What is cloud technology?
For SMB owners with limited time and interest in becoming IT experts, it’s easy to take a pass on the specifics and avoid the cloud altogether. The problem? Staying competitive means embracing tech that takes your business to the next level. Here’s what you need to know about the cloud — without all the hype:
The Cloud, Uncomplicated
So, what is the cloud, exactly? US-CERT suggests thinking of it like email. Your basic email provider handles the sending, receiving, and storage of your messages offsite. You don’t need servers and IT professionals to manage your email account; you simply use the service. The cloud works the same way. You rent space in a public or private cloud and use it to run whatever applications and services you need. Public means you’re sharing the space with other virtual tenants but pay less overall; private offers your own space at a higher cost. Many SMBs leverage the cloud for accounting and payroll software, e-commerce portals, or Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems that let them record calls, implement voice recognition systems, and seamlessly connect with customers and employees around the world.
What You Need to Know
Let’s say you make the jump to the cloud. What do you need to know about using this technology? First up, it’s seamless. You log in and use applications as if they’re stored on local computers. The difference? Data is automatically saved and backed up in the cloud, meaning that if you experience a local server failure, your files and records aren’t gone forever.
It’s also worth understanding cloud price structure. Typically, you’ll pay a monthly fee for specific services — in the case of cloud-based VoIP, this could be paperless faxing, call recording, and mobile integration — and you’ll often have the ability to access more resources on-demand. This feature comes with a commensurate uptick in price but lets you handle sudden traffic spikes to your website or accommodate new business growth. You also need to familiarize yourself with cloud features specific to your deployment, such as how you start and stop call recordings, how you play them back, and how you delete them when they’re no longer needed.
Sure, some cloud benefits may be more hype than helpful for you, but opting for the cloud offers solid advantages for SMBs, including the following:
- Virtual Management: All servers are offsite, meaning there’s no need to install or configure complicated hardware.
- Seamless Upgrades: Software upgrades and performance updates are all handled automatically.
- Easy Support: Troubleshooting can be handled over the phone or via email, since all physical hardware is at the provider end.
- Lower Costs: In the case of cloud-based VoIP, for example, you don’t need to install or upgrade any phones or systems onsite, often making the cloud cheaper than in-house alternatives.
What is cloud technology? For SMB owners, it’s a way to get more, pay less, and not worry about the technical complications of having new hardware onsite. You don’t need to become an expert to reap the benefits. Find a provider you trust, negotiate a solid SLA, and start leveraging the cloud to enhance the reach and ROI of your small business.
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