Real Business In The Clouds

Many great business ideas are trumped by the reality of high capital costs; arguably one of the biggest barriers for micro, small and medium sized enterprises.  However, evolving technology has provided a solution for entrepreneurs who have their feet on the ground but business in the cloud.

The term cloud computing simply refers to the sharing computing capabilities of a large network of computers connected to the internet.

The ‘cloud’ offers a wide range of advantages, most notably of which is cost effectiveness.  Entry into the cloud is relatively cheap and maintenance costs are generally low.  Because the real computing power resides off site, only the most basic hardware is required to execute complex tasks.  On a related note, maintenance tasks are in effect outsourced, freeing the business owner from staffing costs yet ensuring reliability.

Finding capital is certainly a challenge, but finding capital on short notice is even more difficult.  However, cloud services are scalable on a dime.  Entrepreneurs can scale up fairly quickly, adding increased capacity as needed.  Additionally, a seasonal business need not carry the cost of expensive infrastructure during slower periods as cloud conversely allows businesses to scale down with little negative impact.

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The very nature of the cloud ensures mobility.  A young business often has to move to customers. This can be a challenge if data and data processors are back at the office, but the cloud makes data accessible anywhere internet is accessible.

By exploiting the sheer range of cloud based services available, business managers can truly maximize savings.  Storage, servers, phone, security and even software are all available through the cloud.

Even a small business generates a large quantity of data.  Physical storage is costly and hard to manage.  Access to physical storage may also be restrictive.  Further, physical storage requires backup; yet another cost.

There was a time that maintaining an email server required an expensive investment in both hardware and software along with an IT team to manage and maintain.  Today, cloud based email services virtually eliminate those costs while providing a high level of reliability.

Cloud can also be used to replace traditional PBX systems.  In addition to removing hardware costs of an expensive, static and hard to upgrade piece of hardware, cloud based phone systems can offer features and functionalities not previously available.  In effect, even the smallest enterprise can present a professional appearance to clients, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders.

Even some business software can be migrated to the cloud.  The purchase and/or annual licensing of expensive accounting, word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software for individual team members can be replaced with a low monthly subscription.

In effect, capital resources can be deployed to profit centers.  There are however, some issues to consider before making the transition.  Whether one, or several, cloud service providers are engaged, executives must be aware of terms which affect data privacy, access, ownership and security.

Cloud service suppliers must adhere to strict privacy policies to protect clients.  They should provide reliable service 99.999% of the time (referred to as the five nines) while being well equipped to ward off a variety of malicious attacks.  Ensure that the contract does not transfer the ownership of the data to the supplier or a third party.  At the end of it all, the business owner should own the data, regardless of where it is stored.

All things considered however, the cloud enables the transformation of ideas into real business.

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