Top Five Benefits of Cloud Computing for Small Business

Many hosted services are offered over the web for a variety of business needs. The general term used to refer to all of these is cloud computing. Cloud computing allows online companies to use resources over the internet rather than build and maintain their own in-house infrastructures.

Cloud computing is a trendy term that can be heard everywhere these days. Simply put, it refers to storing and accessing information and applications over the web instead of getting them all stored on the hard drive of your computer.

Storing or running programs from your hard drive is called local storage. This means that everything you need is physically there with you, making access to data easy and fast, especially for the one computer and the others connected to it through a local network. This was how many industries functioned for a long time before the cloud came along.

The “cloud” refers to the internet. This calls back to the times in office presentations when the internet was represented by a puffy cloud that accepts and gives information as it hovers above everything.

You may be using cloud computing at some aspect of life without realising it. This applies to online services that you use to send email, edit your documents, stream films or TV shows, listen to music, play games online, or store files and images. Cloud computinga makes all these things possible behind it all.

The first services to use cloud computing are a couple of decades old, rising fast so that a wide range of organisations are already using the service. This includes startups to big corporations as well as non-profits and government agencies.

Cloud computing at a glance

According to a study by the IDC, 50% of information technology will transition to the cloud within 5-10 years. Among the industries that rely heavily on data are the financial sector, telecommunications, technology, health care, government, advertising, retail, gaming, energy and data services.

Furthermore, 82% of companies have found significant savings in moving to the cloud. 60% of businesses already make use of cloud-based IT for operations. 82% of companies are also planning for a multi-cloud strategy.

These stats show that cloud computing holds much promise as a rising industry as well as a valuable resource for companies to take advantage of.

Cloud solutions for business

There are three different types of cloud solutions that businesses can choose from to find the best fit – private cloud, hybrid cloud and public cloud. Each offer different features and benefits. But with each type, the end result stays the same: cloud computing can be done wherever you are, at any time.

Private cloud

Private cloud works in industries with concerns for privacy, including medium businesses and more established enterprises that need to meet standards for security and compliance.

One example is IoT companies, such as those who trace customers through their phones. Other examples include health data companies, e-commerce sites that store credit card data, industries with high intellectual property concerns, and companies that emphasise data sovereignty.

Private cloud is managed by an in-house team of IT personnel or by a private host.

Private cloud offers complete control and flexibility, enabling businesses to manage their own dedicated resources within a third party datacentre.

Hybrid cloud

Hybrid cloud is for companies that prefer the security offered by private cloud. This type of cloud solution is best for workloads that are highly dynamic and prone to changeability. This includes enterprises that can be split into two spheres, sensitive and non-sensitive.

Hybrid cloud also works best for businesses with seasonal data spikes, big data processing, and those with workloads involving API compatibility and requiring solid connection to a network. Hybrid cloud takes its name from the fact that it is managed by both in-house and external resources.

This mix of private and public clouds offer blending of such services as Office 365 for email with other applications that businesses don’t want to be made available in a shared environment.

Public cloud

Public cloud is for industries that have a significant amount of data with no major concerns for privacy. Companies that use this service opt for a pay-as-you-go structure. This type of cloud solution is managed by third party providers.

Industries that use public cloud include those in development and testing, development platform, training servers, one-off big data projects and websites with public information, product descriptions and brochures.

Public cloud is perfect for services, applications and storage that are made publicly available as well as those that use shared resources that are managed by the cloud provider.

More benefits in the cloud

Now that you know the different types of cloud solutions available, it’s time to go over the benefits of moving to the cloud. As a growing trend, cloud computing offers many. Here are five of them.

1. Time-saving, on-demand services

Cloud computing features self-service delivery for different types of workloads and needs. What makes it so attractive to businesses is that any service can be available on-demand. This effectively removes the need for companies to maintain in-house IT staff, especially for small businesses, or manage physical computer resources.

Cloud hosting allows users to get access to their files from any device, anywhere and at any time. This means that files don’t get stored in just one computer, enabling faster operations and availability. Storing in the cloud also makes it safer for businesses to protect their files, with faster backup options and recovery in cases of breaches or similar scenarios.

According to TSG, 45% of companies that use private cloud solution in their operations have enjoyed significant reduction of the time it takes to install applications. This time-saving feature enables companies to enjoy faster processes and improve productivity for employees.

Cloud computing can make integration easier for you. A lot of cloud computing applications include an Application Programming Interface (API) where you can find apps that are compatible instead of having to pay to have them customised for you so you can integrate them.

2. Flexibility

One of the biggest benefits offered by cloud computing is its flexibility. People on your team can access files and information that are relevant to work anywhere and on any device. In a highly mobile world, this is especially important.

Moreover, many companies now offer flexible working arrangements, such as remote workers and telecommuting. With cloud computing, employees can access work files even when they are not in the office, making it easier for them to work wherever they are. For small businesses, this also makes it easier for them to easily manage their operations wherever they are.

Increased flexibility and mobility enable businesses to let their employees use the devices they are comfortable with. This can include tablets, laptops and smartphones, helping employees improve their personal productivity.

With this type of elasticity, companies are able to scale up as their computing needs increase as well as scale down when they decrease. This saves them from having to invest in infrastructure that may not be needed later on in time.

3. Lower costs with pay per use

One of the best immediate benefits of moving your business to the cloud is that there is significant financial savings involved. Cloud computing fully makes use of hardware. With virtualisation, the value of the physical server is increased, giving businesses the opportunity to do more with less.

Cloud computing enables businesses, especially startups, to decrease the need for physical space, power usage, IT resources and more. As a result, there is a lower need for installation, maintenance, upgrades and costs for support and hardware. For SMBs, this is a valuable way of saving resources so they can concentrate on online growth.

Cloud-based resources are measured at granular level, which means that users only pay for the workloads and resources that they use. You also don’t need to buy software anymore or pay for someone or a team to update or install the software, manage email or file servers or run backups.

The benefit of cloud computing is that all of the applications and services are taken over by the cloud vendor, instead of you having to be responsible for any of it.

4. Improved collaboration

Productivity is increased by cloud computing due to its accessibility. Since everyone who needs access to files and data can get them wherever they are, there is less need for employees to be in the same room. This is especially relevant for workers or employees who need to travel a lot.

Teams in different locations all over the globe can readily collaborate on projects without needing to actually meet. Easy sharing and real time updates on files are facilitated, and more things will get done with web conferencing for meetings.

Cloud computing lets small businesses grow quickly online. It’s faster, easier and more convenient to sign up for a cloud-based app than to purchase a server, run it, and install software on it. Expansion is cheaper as there is no need to invest in hardware and software for the startup.

Cloud-based applications can also be accessed on common web browsers at any time. This means that users across the company can adopt to the applications without the need for intensive training. This is especially valuable for businesses with employees in different locations.

5. Enhanced security with instant updates

There is increased security for companies as software is automatically updated, bugs are fixed and content is remotely stored.

Those who have doubts on what the cloud has to offer are concerned about the safety of data outside the company’s internal firewall. The truth is, due to the robust security standards established by ISO, safety is increased when cloud solutions are used. Moreover, cloud providers are strictly required to follow the rules.

As a result, risks are reduced when it comes to loss of laptops containing confidential information as well as the threats of hackers. You can also remotely wipe sensitive data from lost laptops and gadgets so nobody else can access them.

When it comes to ensuring security with the cloud service you choose, you need to know first where your data is stored. Firewalls, detection and prevention tools as well as data encryption can help prevent intruders from getting at your information. However, you still need to know where your data goes when you stop with the service or in cases where the cloud provider closes down. Dedicated hardware is what cloud computing providers need to pass the highest security guidelines.

Data backup is recommended to make sure that you can increase your control over your data. Ensure that the data centre you’re using takes security seriously. Find out what security measures are in place in the server and data centre where your data is stored.

Managed services are also a valuable option in making your data and apps stronger. This includes managed antivirus, firewalls and detection tools. High quality cloud providers offer these to allow for better security.

On top of it all, updates, including on security, are automated.

Cloud service providers can regularly update offers, giving customers the most up to date technology possible. This can include software, servers and computer processing power. Customers can avoid wasting their time maintaining systems and updating them once new features roll out. Suppliers take care of those themselves, out of sight.

As a result, businesses can focus on growing their business while enjoying the best that the latest technology has to offer.

To round up, the top benefits you get from cloud computing include:

– Saving time resources with services that you can enjoy on-demand

– Flexibility and mobility of access

– More affordable services with pay per use

– Better collaboration within teams, especially for overseas or traveling employees

– Heightened security measures in place plus automated updates

With the rise of the cloud computing trend, small and medium businesses can now create websites and power up online influence like never before. With many benefits to enjoy, moving to the cloud is an unmissable opportunity for companies.

Benefits of a Virtual Business Card

Business cards are not dead, they simply reincarnated into a new form-the virtual card. The changes are merely physical. Instead of a paper card, people are now exchanged digitized cards. Nonetheless, the purpose and functions remain the same. As with traditional cards, people use virtual business cards to share business information and network with people.

Traditional cards are in print form, and the paper that bears your company information comes in wallet size. One hands out the cards in person, such as during a party. However, times have changed. More and more companies are bringing their businesses online. Along with these are the changes ways people reach out to customers or potential business associates. To network with people, business professionals are embracing online business profiles such as LinkedIn as well as social sites like Facebook. Use of smartphones and other portable wireless electronic devices has become widespread. All of these have ushered in a new era for the business card.

Traditional vs. Virtual Card

For most people, exchanging cards is a social ritual that has become part and parcel of the networking process. For some, it is also a personal statement, a way of making an impression on new contacts. For some, it is a status symbol: if you don’t have a card, you don’t have a real job. With the coming of digital address book, however, the swapping of information has gone from handshake to hard drive.

For a new material to be adopted on a large scale, it has to supersede the benefits of the product it attempts to replace. The rapid shift from physical to digital exchange shows that people recognize the advantages of the online business card over their physical counterpart. There are so many advantages associated with virtual business cards enticing many people to go digital.

Benefits of Digital Cards

With the growing concern for loss of forests, online cards make it possible to network with people in a sustainable, more ecologically responsible way. There are no paper produced, no ink used to print the cards. There’s also no carbon footprint associate with shipment of paper stock or the business card themselves.

Ecological reasons notwithstanding, keeping physical cards can be cumbersome. If you have 500 business contacts, would you carry 500 business cards in your wallet? Looking for a card among your stack of cards is not the most convenient either. With a virtual card, searching for a person’s business profile is a simple point-and-click affair. They take up less physical space in your wallet or office and won’t cause any clutter. While they lack the tactile impact of a physical card, updating business information is quick and easy.

All in all, they are cheaper over their paper counterparts. There are no first prints or reprints to worry about. You don’t need to go a print a shop and wait for days to have your cards delivered. With online business card, you only pay once for use of software. Since everything can be done online, creation and production can be done without leaving your office.

Google Places – The Benefits for Your Business

Did you know that one out of every five searches on Google pertains to a specific location? It’s true. And from this bit of information, Google Places was born.

Introduced to the online scene late last year, Google Places is a Google feature that produces search results for local businesses. Some consider it a highly beneficial marketing tool for their business; others are unsure of any benefits their business could receive from this localized search tool.

Recently, Google Places has added some new and exciting elements to their features list that could bode well for some businesses, but maybe not all. You make the call on these features:

*Streamline analytics feature: Discover who is searching for you on Google, how they’re finding you, and where they’re coming from right before they enter your store.

Benefit: You can customize your marketing strategies based on what search terms customers are using to locate you. For example, if you own a high-end spa in upper Manhattan and you list services on your Google Places page that customers are using to search for a nearby salon, you might consider keeping those service descriptions on your Google Places page. You might also consider using those keywords in other online marketing platforms such as copy on your website, blog, and social media profiles.

In addition to tailoring your marketing copy, you can also hone in on where your customers are coming from, based on their Google map search for directions to your location. This allows you to consider options such as opening another store across town-somewhere closer to your clients who live farther away.

*Business Information Feature: In addition to posting your business location, you can also post a plethora of business information, including your hours of operation, contact information, photos, payment options, products / services features and benefits, printable coupons, and more.

Benefit: Customers can receive rewards for visiting your business by printing out your customized company coupons on Google Places. This encourages support for your company and helps to build long-lasting relationships with clients.

In addition to building relationships with customers, posting detailed business information also provides your customers with necessary information in one easy-to-read location. This streamline navigation feature reduces frustration on your clients and allows you to reduce the number of unproductive phone calls and inquiries that revolve around your hours of operation, directions to your business, and more.

*Photo Feature: Businesses can offer Internet users a behind-the-scenes (transparent) look into business practices and the faces behind the business. Companies can post photos of the office, the team members, where products are made, where services are offered, and more.

Benefit: Showcasing photos of your business is a highly effective way to open your business to your clients and allow them to build trust in your company. When you illustrate your transparent business practices, you are making it much easier for customers to view your company as trustworthy.

*Customized Code Feature: As more and more businesses begin to promote their Facebook pages and Twitter usernames on their business cards, websites, and in stores, online shoppers are no longer limited to searching main company websites as their source for business information.

Playing off this trend, Google has created a new feature for Google Places that generates a customized code for each business. This code can be placed on business cards, in-store receipts, and business websites. Customers can scan this code into their smartphones and be automatically directed to the company’s Google Places page.

Benefit: According to a study performed by compete.com, smartphone users are interested in receiving some form of rewards on their mobile phone. 36% of participants said they would like to receive grocery coupons, and 29% said they were interested in scannable barcodes.

Taking into account these statistics, Google Places’ customized codes enable your company to cater to the smartphone segment of your market. This illustrates that your business respects your target audience’s time and takes every measure possible to ensure their preferences are met and their lifestyle is catered to.

Does Google Places benefit online businesses?

Although all of these benefits sound fantastic, there is one question that comes to mind. What if you’re an online business with a virtual storefront? Can you still utilize Google Places’ wonderful features?

Based on Google Places’ guidelines, there doesn’t appear to be any benefits for online businesses. Here’s a glimpse into some of their guidelines to help you better understand this conclusion:

  • Every listing must have a mailing address.
  • No one business can have more than one listing per physical location.
  • Businesses that cover a wide range of cities and states must choose one business location (it’s recommended by Google that you choose the address of the company headquarters if you have more than one address). You can specify the area you cover, but you must have one address associated with your business.
  • You cannot use a location where the business does not actually exist.
  • P.O. boxes don’t count as viable locations.
  • You cannot have more than one listing for your business, even if there are multiple locations.
  • If you are renting your property, it is not considered a place of business. Therefore, you must create one listing for the location that processes these rental properties.