As small business owners, we wear dozens of hats. One particular hat that most of us hate to wear – and aren’t qualified to wear – is the hat of an IT manager. This is the person we call when our computer freezes, something won’t print, or we can’t connect to the business network.
Most of us can’t afford an in-house IT manager, so the person who knows the most about computers is charged with the daunting task of keeping the network running smoothly, protecting sensitive data, maintaining network security, updating software and applications, and putting out fires.
This de facto IT manager gets all the blame when things go wrong and none of the credit when things are running smoothly. And the odds of one unqualified person effectively managing a small business’s IT infrastructure as an added job responsibility are extremely slim.
More and more small businesses are turning to cloud computing as a way to save time and money. They’re also finding that the cloud helps them operate more effectively.
With cloud computing, instead of buying, managing and maintaining your own data center, you utilize the equipment of a service provider. You simply pay a monthly fee, ramp up or scale back services as needed, and pay as you go.
Not only does the cloud save you money in upfront and operational costs, but you’ll have anytime, anywhere access to network data and applications on virtually any desktop or mobile device. Rather than being tied to one computer or workstation, you and your employees will have flexibility that allows you to be more productive and provide better customer service.
If you do have to work late, at least you can do it wherever you want on your own schedule. If a sales rep is at lunch and a prospect is ready to sign a contract, they can instantly access the contract, collaborate with a manager to get the green light and email it to the prospect within minutes instead of waiting to get back to the office.
Some of the applications most commonly moved to the cloud include email, the telephone system, video conferencing, collaboration tools and customer relationship management (CRM).
Another huge benefit of the cloud is that the responsibility of buying and managing equipment shifts to the service provider. The hardware, software and applications owned by the provider are world-class – much more sophisticated than most small businesses could ever afford.
You’ll have access to a team of full-time IT professionals who monitor your network 24-7 to ensure security and reliability. They also provide immediate support so you don’t have to waste time putting out fires in-house or hire an outside support firm, which can be expensive and extremely frustrating.
In a nutshell, the cloud takes the time, expense and risk of purchasing IT equipment and managing the network off your plate and turn it over to a qualified provider for a monthly fee.
Just make sure you work with a provider that is willing to spend time learning about your business operations and goals so they can develop a solution that helps you do business better – in addition to saving you time and money.
If you’re using the cloud, how is it working for you? If not, what are your reservations?