Peering Into the Cloud: Small Biz Cloud Computing Solutions (Guest Blog)

Often, small businesses become so accustomed to making do with the resources they have, scaling up to the resources they need can seem intimidating or cost-prohibitive. In reality, cloud computing is a viable and affordable option for small businesses that allows them to streamline efforts and collaborative more effectively, according to The Guardian. If you’ve been struggling with the costs, staff time or skills involved in routine server management or maintenance, perhaps it’s time your business heads to the clouds.

Advantages of cloud computing

When you have an in-house server and dedicated IT staff, you pay up front for all of the costs associated with your storage needs. This can be prohibitive for small businesses. As The Guardian notes, cloud computing keeps initial costs low and offers businesses the resources to scale up as needed. You might purchase limited storage space or find free online backup, then add greater storage space or paid backup as your needs and business resources increase.

Cloud systems also relieve most of the pressure to maintain the system yourself, which is critical for small businesses that cannot afford to hire IT staff. Generally, the cloud provider will set up and maintain the system, monitor security, and run system upgrades as needed. Most cloud providers do work hard to ensure the security of their data, and they should be open with you regarding where your data is physically stored, how it is kept safe, and how threats are handled, notes The Guardian.

Evaluating your needs

You’ll pay more for different levels of service, so SBA.gov suggests starting with a technology use analysis to get an idea of what you really need. Items to consider include:

  • How many technology users you have
  • How much data you currently store on servers
  • Whether you will back up everything or just critical resources
  • How you plan to use the new system

Selecting a product

With so many providers to choose from, selecting the right cloud provider can be time-consuming. As a general guide, Inc. suggests evaluating several different providers on their services’ availability, security and performance.

  • A little digging on your part can determine whether the backup provider you’re considering has regular maintenance or downtime that could limit your access to stored data. If you only need to use cloud services for “just in case” backup, this may not matter. However, if you plan to use an online backup to share files, downtime may limit your productivity.
  • For security, ask questions up front regarding steps the vendor is taking to protect the physical and virtual safety of your data. For example, find out whether your data shares a server with other clients or is kept alone, where the data is housed, how access is controlled, and what type of encryption is used.
  • Referrals from existing customers can help you evaluate the vendor’s performance. Ask targeted questions to get a good idea for the vendor’s actual versus stated performance. If you are rigorous when screening providers, then you can rest assured you know where and how your data is stored.

While switching to a cloud-based backup does require initial research and planning, your hard work is over after those steps. With staff time and financial resources freed up, you will have more time and energy to focus on doing business.

Has your business used cloud storage? Tell us what provider you recommend in the comments.