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Knowledge is power

Cloud key

In part two of our SMBs and the cloud series, Bree Freeman looks at how the cloud is playing a key part in increasing the business potential for SMBs.

Can you remember those old sweet shops? You know the ones where there were jars and jars of these fantastically coloured sweets, which were weighed out by the quarter on a big old-fashioned metal scale pan and packaged into a small white paper bag. The brown-coated shopkeeper who stood masterfully behind the counter then handed that special little package back to you and off you went (running naturally) to get on with exploring the contents of your little white bag. Hmmmm! Pear drops!

But for me sometimes I became bamboozled by the array of sweets on offer and simply couldn’t decide, much to the annoyance of my elder brother, what I was going to buy. So finding myself in a bit of a quandary, I would always opt for a mix-up as being a rather sweet-toothed young madam I simply couldn’t stick with just the one type of sweetie – I wanted to try them all.

Where are you heading with this analogy I hear you say. Well, I have found myself in a similar sticky predicament when it comes to choosing the right cloud computing technology for myself. As a small business owner you can often find yourself in a similar situation but this time instead of tantalisingly colourful jars of mouth-watering sweeties, there’s a whole shopping department of cloud tech out there. Finding the right solution/s for your business can be just as confounding as sweetie picking.

The cloud represents a fundamental shift in the way businesses have to operate and it’s something that every organisation must embrace in order to stay competitive.

These days the market is saturated with cloud solutions that could help take your company up a notch or two or three. But choosing what is right for you is ultimately the hardest part. When it comes to unlocking the potential of the cloud, as always, knowledge is power. Knowing what cloud technology can do for you and your small business is the key to increasing the potential of your business.

In the past few years every trend that we’ve seen, whether it’s BYOD, mobile working and big data has all been made possible thanks to the flexible and reliable environments offered through the cloud.

The cloud represents a fundamental shift in the way businesses have to operate and it’s something that every organisation must embrace in order to stay competitive and it would seem that more small businesses than ever have their heads stuck firmly in a cloud. According to research by the British Chamber of Commerce and BT Business and YouGov on behalf of Vodafone, some 60% of UK SMBs are using cloud-based apps these days.

And it is no surprise really that the majority of SMBs are opting for the cloud as one of the greatest benefits of the cloud is financial. SMBs have discovered that every cloud has a silver lining, and the business apps found within are giving them the same operational power as installed software, at a fraction of the cost.

The cloud can remove the need for many types of hardware, software, networking management and overall IT maintenance. This helps reduce costs for businesses in these areas, with the ability to pay only for what is used, as there is no upfront cost. You’ll pay a low, predictable, flat rate monthly fee per user for the software that you use; and that means that you can scale up or down, as your business needs demand.

If and when you take on more staff, you can immediately switch on new licenses, and similarly turn the tap off if you scale down. In fact you can pick and mix your cloud tech, try out a VoIP system, get yourself a little CRM, whatever you require there will be a cloud solution or app for you.

In the end, though, for small businesses, moving your whole base of operations to the cloud might be the smartest move you ever make. With increased efficiency, productivity, and communication between employees, the sky is really the limit of how successful your small business can be.

My advice is figure out what you want from the cloud, do your research or speak with a reputable provider who, like my old brown-coated shopkeeper, has the knowledge to help you find the right solution to your needs.

In part three of our series Bree will look some of the delectable cloud morsels on offer.

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Bree is a technical writer with 15 year's experience. She specialises in cloud computing, finance and energy and has been published across a wide range of B2B, consumer magazines and newspapers. Bree was the editorial and production driving force for the UK's first cloud computing magazine as well as a number of other B2B magazines. Today, she splits her time between being Creative Director for Be Free Creative Ltd and as a technical writer.