There has been a lot of buzz about "the cloud" and what it can do for small business. The idea of being able to pluck the small business software and services you need -- when you need them -- out of cyberspace sounds appealing, but is there more to it than simple convenience?
A recent report adds statistical weight behind the claim that working in the cloud is not only convenient but profitable. That means it may be time for small businesses and entrepreneurs to seriously consider how they can best use cloud services to save money, build profits and expand their business base.
Survey: Majority Say Cloud Services Increased Profits
The report comes courtesy of Rackspace Hosting, a cloud company. While it may be tempting to write off a survey conducted by a business touting its own niche, the Manchester Business School and marketing firm Vanson Bourne were also involved in the study that offers some compelling data.
With 650 U.S. firms and surveyed 650 U.K. firms, the report came to the following conclusions:
- 88 percent of respondents say that cloud services save them money
- 60 percent say that cloud services reduced the need to maintain their IT infrastructure
- 56 percent say cloud services helped them to increase profits
- 49 percent say that cloud services allowed them to grow their business
Best Cloud Services for Small Businesses
Cloud services help save money and increase profits by shifting what would otherwise be costly or time consuming tasks – think buying, installing and maintaining your own servers plus the software running on them -- to a third-party. In essence, it is outsourcing on the virtual level. Rather than add a new server or hire additional tech support for a growing business, you may be able to get the job done using a cloud service.
Popular cloud services go beyond simply storing files and offer a variety of business solutions:
- Dropbox - A popular cloud storage service, Dropbox allows you to store files and then sync them to a variety of devices
- OfficeTime - Track billable hours and generate invoices
- Salesforce - Helps businesses manage customer accounts and leads. Also provides reporting and analytics as well as marketing services
- Intuit Online Payroll Plus - Ranked as one of the most affordable and advanced payroll cloud services currently available
Although convenient, cloud services don't come without risks. Recall that Intuit's network of sites went down in 2010 for two days, resulting in lost access to business services such as QuickBooks.
Major cloud-services providers take every precaution to protect data and eliminate outages, and these companies typically provide security at a level that most small businesses can’t hope to approximate. If you're a belt-and-suspenders kind of person, you can always combine cloud services with on-site servers backing up critical data. However, doing so also reduces the cost savings you may see as a result of using the cloud.
Despite the risks involved, small business owners may benefit from investigating cloud services to learn which offerings might save valuable time and money.
Maryalene LaPonsie has been writing professionally for more than a decade on topics including education, insurance and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from Western Michigan University.
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