Cloud computing offers advantages for small businesses

By Martin DesRosiers

By now, I’m sure most of you have heard the term “cloud computing”, as it has become the epitome of a buzzword. So what is all the fuss about? The term “cloud” defines a new way of implementing strategic IT solutions for small business. It goes against historical trends of purchasing a small business server, acquiring expensive software licences, and then incurring the life-cycle costs of maintaining this server.

The cloud computing approach for small business has many benefits compared to a traditional centralized local server setup. With a local setup, all of your corporate resources are generally tied to one physical location and on one physical server. What does this mean? Well it means that if this server goes down, if there is a flood/fire in your suite, if there is a break-in, your corporate data is lost. Even if you have an off-site backup strategy, the time to recover and be fully operational would be days. This is where the cloud can come to the rescue.

By leveraging the power of the Internet, you can access and store company resources in the cloud. This means that your corporate data is stored off-site in a secure location across multiple servers with multiple Internet connections. It is impossible to achieve this level of physical redundancy in your own local environment and is one of the biggest advantages of leveraging a cloud-based solution.

Another great feature of the cloud is that in most cases, all you need is a Web browser to access your business information. You do not need to install and configure software packages on your local computer, you just need to launch Internet Explorer, navigate to the appropriate page, and then log in. You can do this from any computer in the world, which means you do not need to be sitting at your work computer to access corporate data. This also eliminates the need to set up expensive and cumbersome VPN and remote access solutions. These are just a few of the many benefits of moving your IT infrastructure to the cloud—benefits that will increase over time as you see the industry shift toward the on-line space.

Microsoft has committed to providing over $6 billion in funds to their R&D efforts specifically toward cloud-based initiatives. Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite, which includes hosted Exchange, SharePoint, Communicator, and Live Meeting, is Microsoft’s version of Google Apps. Both on-line platforms target small business customers as well as enterprise customers and provide a robust suite of on-line applications that allow your business to operate in the cloud. The cloud creates a plethora of opportunities for small business, and it may be time for your business to leverage its power and gain that competitive advantage you seek. Implementing a cloud-based solution will allow you to focus on your core business while your competitors struggle with their existing physical infrastructure.

Martin DesRosiers is the director of technical services for Fully Managed, a Vancouver-based technology management services company. You can follow him on Twitter.

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