In the past few years tech outlets have touted the benefits of the cloud. It can save us time and energy whilst boosting efficiency, pundits claimed. For small businesses, time and energy translate into money, so the cloud can be extremely valuable for any startup. Used properly, cloud services can make startup life a bit easier to manage. Any small business owner would sign up for that, right? Of course, it pays to understand the concept of the cloud in a bit greater detail. We’ll start from the beginning.
What is the cloud?
As with most developments, the cloud is nothing but a buzz term. We’ve had cloud services since the advent of the email attachment. That is, the cloud is nothing more than remote storage. You upload files to a server on the internet, and that data is hosted for you in someone else’s data centre. Again, this is nothing new. The major development of new cloud services is file management. While you could previously store files attached to individual emails, new cloud services provide organizational tools that allow you to get the most out of storing your files remotely. With these management and organizational tools, businesses can leverage the cloud for convenience and profit.
How the cloud works for you
With a working understanding of the cloud in hand, we can examine how it can work for a small business. Here are a few advantages cloud services provide.
- No more email attachments. Email attachments can be a huge pain. Attach a file to an email and you always risk it ending up in someone’s junk folder. Email files to yourself and you risk it getting lost in the mess of your inbox. Using a cloud service eliminates the need for most email attachments. Instead sending an attached file to a client, you can simply provide them with a URL to download it from the cloud. That means a smaller email file size with a lower chance of it going to spam.
- Convenient collaboration. Setting up cloud services means that any employee needing access to a file can obtain it at any time. Since many cloud services, such as Google Drive, allow for document editing within the platform, this makes for more convenient collaborations. Different team members can combine to edit a single document, saving plenty of back-and-forth over email and phone.
- Remote work. Sometimes it’s simply easier for employees to work from home than to come into the office. Even if you prefer to keep your employees in one place, working from home is better than not working at all. By using cloud services, employees will have access to their files both in the office and at home. That can create more productivity opportunities, since employees can work when convenient for them, rather than during arbitrary office hours.
- Saved costs. Cutting expenses is huge for any small business. Using cloud services means cutting back on supplies such as USB storage drives and even server space. There is no need for a networked office if everyone can access a central filing system. This might also cut down on external server space needed. Any cost cuts help, and there are certainly opportunities with cloud services.
As you might expect, cloud services aren’t perfect at this point. There are questions and concerns with them that you should be aware of when considering cloud services for your business.
Privacy. While cloud services limit access to people you approve, there are still some issues. For instance, the service Dropbox has a public folder that anyone can access. Accidentally place the wrong file in that folder and it can compromise your business.
Connectivity. They’re increasingly rare, but internet outages still happen from time to time. If your office internet goes down you’ll lose access to your files in the cloud. This means an internet outage can cripple productivity, costing you time and money.
Data centres. When you upload files to the cloud, you’re using someone else’s servers in someone else’s data centres. These are called control systems, which is funny, because they’re completely out of your control. That is, you can temporarily lose access to these files at any given time, by no fault of your own, if the cloud service experiences issues.
Like many other recent innovations, the cloud can create unprecedented conveniences for us and our businesses. We can then leverage those conveniences to better manage our time, which in startup land translates to money. Small businesses should seek out cloud services to boost convenience and productivity. There might be issues, but as with most cases, the benefits far outweigh the downsides.