According to a recent study, the real value of cloud services for SMBs is access to services that were once only available to enterprises – and for a faction of the cost: “Cloud computing can help level the playing field for smaller firms. It allows them to access sophisticated IT services that were previously out of reach. For example, it can allow them to manage and monitor their sales, operations and finances in real time.”
So let’s outline some key strategies that small business leaders can adopt starting today in order to get onboard with cloud services or to strengthen the existing infrastructure.
Cloud storage has become an integral way for defining and managing our digital lives. More and more we are juggling multiple devices whether a laptop or desktop at work, a smartphone on the subway, or a tablet at home. And in the process, we’ve come to rely on the ability to post our content instantly into the cloud, whether Word docs, PDF forms, spreadsheets, or video and audio files.
Businesses have also gotten on the cloud storage bandwagon and are readily observing the benefits of giving employees access to their content when, where, and how they need it. Whether you’re a small business leader and need to provide cloud storage for your organization, or else a startup offering the next generation revolutionary app – you’re going to demand strong storage capabilities “in the cloud.” And concerns over security in the cloud don’t get as much attention anymore as data storage is regulated by the highest standards. Some of the top contenders in this space are Google Drive, Box, OneDrive, and Dropbox.
Email & Office tools
In the good ‘ole days when you needed email or word processing capabilities you got in the car and traveled to your favorite computer store. Once you purchased Windows or WordPerfect, you got back in your car, drove home, tore off the plastic cover, loaded the program into your CD drive, and waited about 15 minutes for everything to install.
Times have changed for the better. Now instead, with a few clicks on your computer and in less than 2 minutes you have instant access to email, document, and file sharing in the cloud. The two major options here are Microsoft Outlook and Gmail. Most of us probably have been using either one or both of these solutions for years. While Microsoft was the architect of proprietary software it has entered the cloud age in recent years with the release of its Office 365 Small Business Suite. This comes bundled with access to the online MS suite of desktop tools (Access, Excel, InfoPath, Outlook, OneNote, PowerPoint, Publisher, Word), in addition to Exchange, Lync, and SharePoint, and 50GB of mailbox space, as well as an additional 10GB + 500MB of cloud storage per user for $150 per user per year.
Gmail has come a long way since it started in 2006. Google has expanded its ecosystem to include a full suite of cloud-based tools. Google Apps for Business provides professional email, online storage, documents, shared calendars, video meetings and all the other Google tools and resources that we’ve grown accustomed to using on a daily basis for a modest $50 per user per year.
Forget the hosting of servers, licensing software, or upgrades to your infrastructure. If you’re not hosting your email, calendars, contacts and chat through either Google Apps for Business or Microsoft’s Office 365, then you’re wasting your time on unnecessary hassles and expenses.
To be continued . . .