The term “cloud” is quickly becoming part of our everyday vocabulary, though many people we speak with don’t really understand what it is or how it can be beneficial to their business or personal lives. The “cloud” is a generic term describing the use of remote servers to store and manage applications and files.  The cloud can provide very valuable business and personal data management tools and is worth exploring for personal or business use. Storing information on the cloud offers many benefits and a few drawbacks.

Access to Information

Most of us that work in a digital word work from multiple devices including desktops, laptops, tablets and smart phones, and we may even have different devices in different places (i.e. home, work). With a good cloud solution, the days of forgetting your USB stick at the office and having to drive all the way back to work are over. Saving information on the cloud allows you to access all of your work from wherever you are. Cloud solutions also keep your information synchronized, so the most updated versions of each file are available on any device.

Team Collaboration

Cloud solutions like Google Apps, SalesForce Chatter and Citrix GoToMeeting are great tools for helping teams work together from remote locations. Collaboration tools allow multiple people to work on the same document simultaneously and discuss changes via chat or video conference.

Reduced Cost

Utilizing cloud based solutions are often far less expensive than the costs incurred purchasing, setting up and running server systems. The nominal fees charged by hosting providers reduce your on-site IT needs – and since most providers charge by the user, you can easily expand your IT infrastructure as your company grows.

Shift Focus of IT Staff

Too many small businesses burn up their time fixing IT problems taking away from their core business and the dollars that generates. If you don’t have an on staff IT professional, cloud solutions help to clear up the giant IT headaches you face at the most inopportune times. The minor costs associated with cloud solutions far out weigh the headaches faced on a regular basis.

Security and Disaster Recovery

Thinking about putting all of your information on a computer that you don’t physically control may raise your blood pressure. Relax and consider that cloud solution providers like Google, Adobe, Citrix, and SalesForce.com have far better IT support than your small business. Each of these cloud providers will outline for you in detail how they secure your information through virtual, physical and redundancy security protocols. Most high quality providers meet SAS70 type II security certification requirements giving your information as much security as your bank provides for your money.

In addition to the server security each internet session accessing your information is conducted through an SSL (secure socket layer) connection encrypting your data as it passes back and forth with the server providing the highest security possible.

No Internet, No Data

Ok, the cloud is not all fun and games… There is a major downside that needs to be addressed. If you don’t have access to the internet, you often don’t have access to your business information. Some solutions like Google Drive will keep a copy of your information on your local machine, but cloud software like SalesForce.com is not accessible.

As a power or internet failure backup, at Branding Arc we keep “cell phone”connections available so if our main connections fail we can still access vital information.

Conclusion

The “cloud” provides small businesses with a variety of solutions that can reduce costs and increase productivity and security. Each cloud solution and provider should be evaluated independently and you should select only the solutions that fill your needs. The most important part about starting to migrate to cloud solutions is the setup. Either hire a professional or take the time to really learn all about each service you implement.