More and more SMBs have their heads in the clouds and for good reason. Cloud computing is changing how computer needs are fulfilled. With the onset of the cloud, essential aspects of every business like data management, content, and collaboration tools are delivered from the Internet rather than supported by locally installed software and servers.
For SMBs there are many compelling reasons to migrate to cloud-based applications, like the following:
Scaling up or down on demand
Outsourcing the expensive burden of maintaining your own servers and software
Accessing data from anywhere and from any device
Replacing heavy IT expenditures with predictable operational expenditures
Many businesses are already using the cloud and don’t even know it
Several services we take for granted such as WordPress, Gmail, Skype and GoToMeeting are cloud-based. And the skies are just going to get cloudier. Harbingers of the future, VCs are insisting their startups stay lean and mean by using cloud services to test and build out business concepts as well as to scale the business.
Concerns about security aren’t putting much of a damper on the party. Cloud-based startups are predicted to number in the thousands over the next few years.
Cloudy with a chance of cost saving
Depending on whether you want to make a wholesale move to the cloud or shift a few operations, there are several hot services designed specifically for SMB productivity.
Platform as a Service (PaaS) − Salesforce.com and Amazon Web Services
PaaS, also known as Software as a Service (SaaS), eliminates the need to build expensive on-premise applications. Users pay their PaaS provider for what they use just like a utility, greatly reducing overhead. Salesforce.com and Amazon Web Services are vying for domination of the cloudsphere with their full suites of cloud offerings that provide the gamut of applications from sales, database management, customer service and private social networking services.
Data Storage − Mozy.com
MozyPro is a pay-as-you-go data storage and back up service that mitigates the need to purchase hardware. Designed for SMBs, the service uses military-grade encryption to protect your data. Even better, MozyPro is ISO27001 certified, a best practices rating for measurement of information security management.
Accounting − Outright.com
Outright automates small business accounting by syncing and organizing all of your accounts. It categorizes transactions based on IRS best practices and maintains up-to-date estimates of quarterly and year-end taxes; and, the service uses 256-SSL security—the same protection found in most major banks.
File Storage − Dropbox.com
Dropbox works across all platforms and saves your files in the cloud, as well as locally, so they can still be accessed without an Internet connection. It offers 2GB of storage for free, and prices scale up from there. Dropbox also allows file sharing so colleagues or team members can work on the same documents and be assured of never losing a file.
Scheduling − Schedulicity.com
Schedulicity is an online scheduling tool that plugs into social media sites and mobile devices so you can access your calendar from anywhere. Additionally, customers can easily book a meeting with you through Facebook, a mobile app or online, ending the tedious game of phone tag.
Recruiting − Accolo.com
Accolo fuses the cloud with the crowdsourcing benefits of social networks to take recruiting to a new level of sophistication. Using Accolo, HR departments can maximize candidate flow and quality by tapping into the natural referral system created by social networks. Accolo’s service also includes an online application process that streamlines the workload of sifting through scores of applicants.
Get your servers out of the closet and into the cloud
How does an SMB wade through the myriad choices and systematically migrate to the cloud without creating the headache of “cloud sprawl”? There are cloud-based services for that, too. For example, Citrix Open Cloud helps a company tailor its migration process so the good features of an on-premise operation are incorporated into the transition.
The party won’t get going until Apple shows up
You can’t talk about the cloud without mentioning iCloud, Apple’s cloud offering. iCloud stores and manages content and wirelessly pushes it to your devices. The real significance isn’t found so much its usefulness—it’s only helpful in the Mac supported world—but in its role as a high profile legitimizer of the cloud. The seeding of the cloud with the Apple stamp of approval will no doubt precipitate a deluge of more cloud services and businesses. Clouds never looked so sunny.