Tech expert Rob Toledo gave us ideas on how small business owners can benefit from the work in the clouds. He calls to let go of the old desktop mentality and start thinking outside of the hardware. Business users will appreciate his advices.
The cloud. It sounds in many ways like something mystical and mysterious, and to many small business owners, it really is. Just the thought of sending one’s most private data off into the ether is enough to induce heart palpitations. And yet, small business owners who don’t embrace the cloud are missing out on a host of productivity tools that could significantly increase efficiency and lower costs throughout their organization. What’s more, the security risks associated with the cloud are negligible at best, at least when compared with the security risks of storing data on an easily lost or stolen laptop.
There are many ways that small business owners can benefit from embracing the cloud, especially when it comes to productivity.
1. Easier, More Efficient Collaboration
Working in the cloud means having instant access to documents, presentations, and other crucial information across offices, teams, and remote locations. This makes it much easier for team members to collaborate on projects, both in the case of simple access needs and in terms of in-depth editing.
As an example, let’s say our team is preparing for a big presentation at an important industry conference. Because the presentation incorporates work from across the company, the initial draft of that Powerpoint will need to be emailed to ten different people, all of whom reply with different edits that will then need to be compiled into one presentation. Then the presentation will likely need to go back to all of the initial commenters, and so forth, onto email infamy.
Not so with services like Google Drive, in which every team member can edit the presentation directly and see what everyone else is saying along the way. Goodbye redundancy, hello efficiency.
The same goes for simple cloud storage apps, as well as for any app with a dashboard. Standardize the tools, make them readily and equally accessible to all relevant parties, and the cloud will give you a lean, mean efficiency machine. For more cloud-specific tips, we suggest looking through a good collaboration guide, which presents a number of great ideas for a mobile workforce.
2. Increased Company Agility
For similar reasons, the cloud is also great for increasing the agility of your company, particularly if you outsource work or hire contractors. You’ll have an intuitive sense about what this means if you’ve ever hired freelancers and scrambled to find all of the documents they needed to get the job done and share them efficiently. With the cloud, just store it all in one place and add new users simply by entering their email. You can revoke their access just as easily, and, if you’re worried about the security of your documents, you can keep them read-only as well.
This is the same feature that will make it much easier to scale your business as well. Adding new employees to company-specific cloud services will be as easy as adding contractors, and when you need more storage space, just add it to your payment plan rather than investing in new, cumbersome hardware.
3. Less Time Wasted Backing Up Files
No matter how many times you might lecture employees (or they might lecture you), chances are, you think about backing up your data much more than you actually do it. The same can be said for just about anything that isn’t automated. With cloud storage services, backup is automated; set it up once to either back up on a schedule or to sync instantly. Or, work directly in the cloud without downloading files to your computer and the cloud app will save all of your work on its own. What’s more, for those who worry about cloud security, rest assured that data stored on cloud servers is backed up in multiple places and works actively to protect against hacks in ways far more comprehensive than most individuals could achieve on their own.
The only downside to backing up data in the cloud is that it can slow down your internet connection, especially if you’re backing up large files. And, in fact, if you’ve got the wrong router in the first place, heavy cloud activity can do the same. It might be worth taking a good browse through a bandwidth log before plunging in fully, to ensure there are no slow-downs.
4. Less Money Spent Overall
At first glance, it might seem like cloud services are just another expense on top of many others. But the reality is that cloud services will replace and reduce a fair number of costs your small business is already incurring. This will be especially true if your business currently operates on or backs up to its own servers, which require their own set up, upkeep, management and maintenance, not to mention any utilities costs associated with the surrounding infrastructure. With cloud computing, all of these costs will be outsourced to a company dedicated to providing these services. And because they operate on pooled servers, costs will be far beneath what you’re used to paying.
What’s more, cloud computing companies push out software updates to customers automatically, so you won’t have to buy new software either. Combined, these factors all work together to lower costs.
5. Increased Mobility
It may be an obvious point, but it can’t be missed: a cloud-based workforce is a mobile one. Forget that presentation on your desktop? Need to work in the airport? With cloud based computing, employees will always be connected and will have what they need, whether they choose to work from their laptops, desktops, smart phones or tablets. No need to compile spreadsheets onto a flash drive or wait while a colleague hurries back from a trip to get those important documents uploaded. Wherever there’s an internet connection, there’s a way to work.
Overall, working in the cloud is just what small businesses have been waiting for technology that levels the playing field, providing the little guys with access to the kind of tools and security previously only available to corporations with large IT budgets. However, because working in the cloud will require a shift of mindset, it’s important to have a good understanding of just what it is and what it can do for your business. For that we recommend a good cloud computing guide, as well as a willingness to let go of that old desktop mentality and start thinking outside of the hardware immediately in front of you.
Rob Toledo loves all things tech and gadget. Always with one ear to the ground regarding the latest and greatest in both, he could chat all day about either. He can be reached on Twitter @stentontoledo.