For all the initial hyperbole about cloud computing, the fact is that the cloud has grown in reliability and gained acceptance in large enterprises and small businesses alike. As such, small and mid-sized businesses that have been reluctant to consider the cloud in the past may now be looking to implement selective cloud-based services in order to reduce their operational costs or increase service uptime.
To help risk-adverse SMBs that may be keen to adopt cloud services, we’ve drawn up a list of four mature cloud service categories that offer concrete benefits, yet are relatively easy to adopt.
Small businesses that want to increase the reliability of their messaging platform will want to consider a migration of their email services into the cloud. By far the most mature offering, it is possible to host a traditional POP account or even an Exchange Server account at a cost of just $5 (or less) per account, per month. Monetary savings aside, small businesses and SOHOs are well served by not having to concern themselves with recurring maintenance tasks and applying security patches, which frees them up to focus on their core business.
Collaboration and Online Platforms
Beyond basic email services, many cloud vendors have started offering heavy-duty collaboration software such as Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft Lync Server in the cloud. This extends to Wikis, blogs and a plethora of CMS (Content Management Systems) that may be deployed by small businesses. The benefit for smaller businesses here is obvious -- they are spared the often complex tasking of setting up and maintaining these platforms.
While anti-spam filters have grown steadily in sophistication over the year, the techniques used by spammers have similarly evolved. The situation is such that the most effective spam filters today are those that are able to identify spam based on their access to a large number of spam sources. No surprise, perhaps, that Google’s spam filter is widely acknowledged to be extremely effective in filtering out unsolicited email messages in its Gmail email service.
Fortunately for small businesses that do not use Gmail, there are many mature cloud-based spam-filtering services that promise to stop the spam by means of advanced algorithms that are continuously fine-tuned by access to a large array of spam sources. If you'd like to read more on the subject, I’ve previously written a blog about the merits of a hosted anti-spam solution, which I believe remains relevant today.
Note that I’m advocating cloud backup here, not cloud storage -- for the simple reason that using the cloud as a primary form of storage remains a high-risk proposition unless it is accompanied by adequate redundancy. Using the cloud as a secondary or even tertiary layer of backup however, can be a relatively cost effective way to attain much higher levels of redundancy without you having to pay an arm and a leg in the form of expensive storage area network (SAN) appliances. Just remember to encrypt the data prior to uploading it.
Have you adopted any of the above cloud services in your SMB? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section below.
Paul Mah covers technology for SMBs for Small Business Computing and for IT Business Edge. He also shares his passion for and knowledge of everything from networking to operating systems as an instructor at Republic Polytechnic in Singapore, and is a contributor to a number of tech sites, including Ars Technica and TechRepublic.
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