If you’ve been on any tech or business site in the last year, you probably have heard of the next greatest thing in tech – the cloud. The cloud, the cloud, the cloud, the cloud. It does seem as if sometimes all we hear about with regard to technology these days is the cloud.
But here’s the deal: The cloud is being hyped for a reason. For most small businesses, it really is a better system than storing your data, emails, and all the rest on your desktop, laptop, tablet or other device. Here’s why:
1. Always-on availability from any device: With the cloud, instead of purchasing software, you purchase a license or subscription to use the software from any device. Unless you take your laptop or tablet with you everywhere, it is easy to have some documents on one computer and other documents on a different computer. That is no way to run a business. Storing everything in the cloud means that you and your team will have access to everything, anytime, anywhere.
2. Access to the latest updates: Dealing with software updates is an issue we all have – when to update it, and how to balance the need for that against the cost. The good news here is that when you migrate to the cloud (which is easy to do), you will always be using the latest software.
3. Affordability: Again, the cloud wins hands down. As explained to me recently by Cindy Bates, Vice President of Microsoft’s SMB Group, “It used to be that in order to have the most advanced technology, small businesses would have to invest in the same expensive hardware as large companies. It was cost-prohibitive, but now with cloud technology, small businesses can pay just for what they use.”
4. Security: In this regard, security means two things, both of which are good:
- First, your data, documents, emails, and all other vital business info that you store in the cloud are very secure because they are being hosted on encrypted, world-class servers owned and operated by large corporations with far more resources than you or I have. If, for example, you start to use a service like Microsoft’s Office 365 (see below), you can be quite confident that your data will be as secure as possible when housed remotely on their servers.
- Second, because your data will in fact be stored remotely, you do not have to worry about computer crashes, stolen laptops, and the like. Take it from someone who has had chapters of books lost due to hard-drive failures – having your information stored remotely is a smart, secure call.
So yes, updating in the cloud makes sense.
Let me give you an example: After I spoke with Ms. Bates, I was offered the chance to view a demonstration of Microsoft’s cloud service, Office 365. As I have long used many desktop Office applications to run my business, and since many of you do as well, I wanted to see how Office in the cloud would work.
It was quite impressive.
At a Microsoft store, Don Crawford of Kamind (a Microsoft IT partner) let me take it for a spin. Aside from accessing all of the programs you know and use (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, One Note, Access, and Publisher), there were all sorts of other cool things to be found in the cloud version of Office:
- The ability to create documents online using a web browser
- Access via all platforms – desktop, laptop, Mac, PC, mobile phone, as well as the ability to sync with offline devices
- Continuous backups
- The capability to share files easily with remote teammates
- Easily able to host and participate in online meetings
The bottom line is that using a cloud-based service like Office 365 makes a whole lot of sense for any small business. You get world-class, powerful tools, ease of use, and an incredibly affordable price point.
And, as Cindy Bates told me, “The cloud just makes it easier for teams to work together.”