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Reach For The Sky: Putting Your Small Business Into The Cloud

If you run a small business, then you are likely used to being bombarded with buzzwords from every direction. It can be difficult to sort out the latest fads from legitimate trends in business. Cloud computing is one of these buzzwords that has been making the rounds for several years now, and you may be wondering whether it's all a lot of vapor or if there's any real business substance to it. Luckily, the cloud isn't just another trendy tech term that's being used to sell you products that you don't really need. Cloud computing is here to stay and it offers real benefits to businesses of any size.

What is the Cloud?

There are endless articles describing cloud computing available on the internet, so it isn't worth your time to read yet another lengthy description. The truth is that cloud computing can mean many things, but at its core it is simply the use of internet-based services. This means that instead of running business services from physical infrastructure located at your business, you instead make use of remote, managed services. That's it.

Why is Cloud Computing Useful for Small Businesses?

Cloud computing is useful for businesses of all sizes, but small businesses, in particular, can benefit from it. Since the key idea behind cloud computing is the use of remote, managed infrastructure, this means that actually dealing with the technical details is offloaded onto another company. Sounds good, right? If you've worked with technological assets before, then you know that managing even a single network server can be a hassle. This sort of equipment can be great when it's running well, but as soon as something goes wrong you are forced to either deal with the problem yourself or pay for extra support. Even worse, your business operations can suffer from this kind of equipment downtime.

With cloud resources, you are paying another company to manage all of this for you. You make use of the services (which may be anything from network storage to remote servers to email services), but someone else handles the management. If there is a physical hardware problem, your particular services will usually be seamlessly shifted to a different piece of hardware and it is unlikely that you will ever even know that something is wrong. In the case that there is a serious problem resulting in downtime, it can be addressed by experts without the need for you to do anything.

These advantages are why cloud computing has become so popular in recent years, especially for businesses that do not have the resources of huge companies. Most cloud services are either subscription based or pay-for-usage, but these fees are small compared to keeping a full-time IT staff and buying and maintaining physical, on-site equipment.

What Can Cloud Computing Do for Your Business?

This is a trickier question. Part of the reason that cloud computing is often described in such vague terms is that it is truly an umbrella term for a wide variety of services. You generally see terms such as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS) associated with cloud computing resources. These terms describe the type of assets available and refer to how managed the resources are. IaaS is the least managed of these assets and usually refers to rented physical or virtual server instances. Meanwhile, SaaS is the most managed of these assets, and it refers specifically to remote software services.

While these descriptions sound complex, what it really boils down to is this: there is likely a small business cloud support to cover any type of IT infrastructure that you are currently running locally. This can be anything from local email servers to databases to network file storage. Moving these services to the cloud has the potential to save you money, save you time, and ultimately allow you to have more secure and robust IT assets backing your business operations.