There are a massive number of benefits to cloud computing for small businesses. The cloud helps you make the most out of your data and drives your business forward.
But making this transition is often confusing and daunting. You may have dozens of questions. Is cloud computing right for your business? Which type of service should you choose? How do you prepare for this transition?
This FAQ will answer every question you might have about cloud computing for small businesses. With this guide, you can take advantage of cloud computing and feel empowered to make the right choices for your enterprise.
What is Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing is the process of using off-premise servers to store, organize, and analyze data. You can then access all of this data from the internet.
This process differs from traditional computing in that it doesn’t require you to have any on-premise infrastructure in place. You’ll use third-party hardware to manage your data.
This means that you’ll no longer have to save your data to a hard drive or store it on magnetic tape. As long as you have a device that can connect to the internet and the third-party server, you have access to all of your data.
Does Your Business Need Cloud Computing?
Most small businesses need cloud computing to operate efficiently. That’s because managing servers and data processing systems is costly and time-consuming. Cloud computing eliminates this problem, allowing small businesses to make the most out of their data at a fraction of the cost.
If you’re wondering whether cloud computing is right for your small business or businesses, take a look at some of the primary benefits:
- No infrastructure. You won’t waste time or money building a server room, maintaining servers, or hiring IT staff to keep the system running smoothly.
- Customized solutions. If you no longer need a certain feature or set of data, you can get rid of it immediately. You can also add services whenever you introduce a new product.
- Better communication. Your staff has access to all of the data they need. They don’t have to hunt down a specific hard drive or sort through the archives to find information.
- Reliable. Software and hardware are constantly updated. You’ll have access to the latest and greatest technology.
- Secure. Data backups ensure you never lose important data. Everything is encrypted and only authorized users will have access to sensitive or private data.
- Cost-effective. You only pay for the services you use. You won’t have to invest in any hardware or infrastructure. This means you won’t lose money if equipment breaks down, becomes obsolete or depreciates in value.
If even one of these benefits applies to you, consider making the transition to the cloud.
How Much Does Cloud Computing Cost?
Cloud computing for small businesses usually costs much less than it would for businesses to manage their own data on-site. There are a few reasons for this:
- You’re not responsible for the cost of the servers and hardware. A cloud computing provider pays for the servers and their maintenance. You only pay a very small fraction of this cost every month to use the hardware. Even if you pay this fee for many years, it still costs less than it would to operate your own servers.
- You’ll experience less downtime. If equipment fails, you might have to pause daily operations. Every minute your system is down, you lose money. Trustworthy cloud computing providers have backup systems in place to prevent downtime. Most cloud providers guarantee at least 99 percent uptime, which is more than you could reasonably achieve on your own as a small enterprise with limited staff and resources.
- You pay for what you use. If you use your own hardware or buy software licenses, you’re stuck paying for every feature these include. With cloud computing, you can negotiate a monthly price based on the specific services you need. When your needs change, you can drop or add services immediately.
The exact cost of cloud computing varies depending on the provider you use and which services you need. The best cloud computing providers will offer custom pricing options for each enterprise.
How Safe is Cloud Computing for Small Businesses?
Cloud computing is very safe, especially when you work with a trustworthy provider. However, there are still a few security considerations you should keep in mind as you make this transition.
- Can your data be restored? Make sure the provider backs up your data in a secure location.
- How is the data stored? Providers should use encryption, user authentication and physical security features at server warehouses to prevent data leaks and unauthorized access.
- Are there built-in redundancies? Cloud providers should have backup hardware and power sources in case the main hardware or power source is down.
- Is the provider aware of compliance standards in your industry? Check that the provider is capable of keeping your customers’ private information safe.
- Does the provider use fraud detection software? The best providers use the power of big data and analytics to flag suspicious account activity and prevent would-be intruders from accessing information.
It’s impossible to create a data storage and processing system that is 100 percent safe. Every system has potential security vulnerabilities, including cloud computing for small businesses. The best way to avoid these issues is to talk with prospective cloud providers and learn what they’re doing to protect customers’ data.
Which Is Better, the Public Cloud or the Private Cloud?
For small businesses, a public cloud is a much better choice than a private cloud.
A private cloud is a cloud computing strategy in which a business owns and manages the entire system. They use their own servers, web portals and data warehouses. They do this because they have more control over every aspect of the process. They can identify and close potential security loopholes themselves.
But a private cloud system is costly and time-consuming. It requires a massive amount of resources and infrastructure—resources that many small businesses don’t have. You have to hire a team of IT experts to manage the system full-time. It’s usually more difficult for in-house IT teams to change technical and strategic direction quickly compared with public cloud computing service providers. It also may take your team more time to phase out obsolete equipment or add new services.
A public cloud is a better fit for small businesses. A public cloud is a cloud computing strategy in which the business uses third-party servers and hardware. The cloud provider takes care of all of the details, including infrastructure and management.
This is a great option because it lets you focus on running your business. When you go with a reliable provider, the system is secure. You won’t have to hire an IT department to manage your data in the cloud. You can move from one project to the next without worrying about technology system and staff scaling.
Which Cloud Computing Service Should You Use?
If you’ve decided to use a cloud computing provider to handle every detail for you, then the next step is to consider what type of service your business will need.
Here are the main options:
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): The provider manages the hardware and software, providing a full range of services to your business. You can access your data through a web portal. The provider can also perform other tasks for you, such as data analysis, data recovery and IT support. This is a good option for small businesses that need to store a lot of data.
- Software as a Service (SaaS): The provider creates and manages software that makes it easier to run your business. For a monthly or annual fee, you get access to the software features you need. This saves you from having to buy multiple software licenses or create your own software. This is best for businesses that just want to operate more efficiently and don’t require any advanced data analytics or storage.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS): This service is almost identical to IaaS. The only difference is that a PaaS provider will also provide business intelligence portals, business strategies and custom data management options. This is the best choice for small businesses that need help harnessing the power of BI or are in the process of creating a new product or service and need some extra support.
- Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS): The provider only makes backups of important data and ensures that these backups are stored securely. This is a good option if you’re satisfied with your current data processing strategy and you just want an extra layer of security.
In general, an IaaS or PaaS system will be most beneficial for your small business. Some providers even offer both types of services to best meet your needs. For example, you may start off using an IaaS system, but if you want to launch a new product or website, then you can switch to a PaaS system until the product is on the market.
How Do You Prepare for Cloud Computing?
A little prep work now can save you time and money in the future when you transition to the cloud. Here are a few things you should do before you hire a cloud computing service provider:
- Upgrade your network bandwidth. To use cloud computing, small businesses need to ensure that their internet connection is reliable and fast. With so much data moving across the network every month, you don’t want to face unexpected bandwidth overage fees.
- Create a basic cloud strategy. What do you hope to accomplish? Are there any aspects of your business’ operations that you’d like to improve? Even if you’re unsure whether the cloud computing provider can solve all of these issues, you should still bring them up. The provider may offer more services than you expect.
- Read case studies. Reliable providers often have case studies or client testimonials on their websites. You may find ideas on how to manage your own business when you look at what other enterprises have done with cloud computing.
- Hire supporting staff. You may want to hire a fractional CTO before you begin transitioning to cloud computing. A fractional CTO will handle all of the tasks related specifically to this transition. They can troubleshoot problems and keep your staff on track, making the cloud computing transition seamless.
These steps are merely suggestions. A great cloud computing provider will work with you to ensure that your business successfully makes the transition as smoothly as possible. But when you do these four things in advance, it may make the process easier and faster.
How Do You Transition to the Cloud?
The best way to transition to cloud computing is to hire an experienced cloud services provider. The provider will:
- Develop a service level agreement (SLA) based on your needs;
- Help you decide on an effective business strategy using cloud computing tools;
- Move workloads to the cloud;
- Outsource IT services to support the new cloud computing strategy;
- Backup and secure data;
- Create user portals to access data; and
- Provide customized reports, visualizations and data analytics software.
It all happens relatively quickly—some small businesses can transition within just a few weeks, and others within a few months. Once you have a strategy in place and have signed the SLA, the rest of the process is straightforward. You don’t have to do any heavy lifting.
If you choose not to hire a cloud computing services provider and wish to do the work yourself, the process will be much more complicated and time-consuming. It requires a greater understanding of how cloud computing works. You’ll also need to create your own software or find the appropriate software licenses for your business. This is why it’s wiser for small businesses to outsource their cloud computing needs.
Do You Need to Train Your Staff to Use the New System?
You generally don’t have to train your staff on how to use the new system. The cloud computing provider often creates a user-friendly web portal that your staff can access to generate reports and view data. This system is designed to be very simple to use, even if you have little experience with computers or cloud processing. Training takes just a few minutes.
Do You Have More Questions About Cloud Computing for Small Businesses?
We want to hear from you. If you have a specific question about your business or you have another question that this guide did not cover, you can get in touch with us directly to learn more. We strive to provide our clients with all of the information and tools they need to make the best choices for their businesses. We’ll help you make the transition to the cloud quickly and easily, allowing you to take full advantage of this powerful technology.
If you have more questions about cloud computing for small business, or you’re ready to make the transition now, contact Tek Leaders. We work closely with small businesses to find the best cloud computing solutions for their needs. If you want to learn more about our services, you can reach us by email directly.