For many small businesses, Information Technology support isn't just a headache -- it's a complete nightmare. Few businesses have the funds to hire full-time IT staff, so they adopt a do-it-yourself attitude and dub a current employee "the computer guy." In an increasingly Web-centric world, though, there's simply no way for one person to juggle IT support with other tasks and do both well.
DIY Doesn't Always Work for Small Business IT
These are just a few of the nightmare scenarios that small businesses experience with in-house IT every day:
- A company sets up a system allowing employees to log in and manage computers remotely. Hackers penetrate the company through the remote login system and plant malware on the company's point of sale systems, compromising customers' financial security.
- A company can't afford a full set of tapes for a rotating daily server backup and opts to back data up to the same tape every day instead. One day, the server crashes. The tape is stolen, destroyed in a fire or becomes unreadable after years of stress. The data is permanently lost.
- A company recognizes the need to have a website, but no one in the company has the necessary skills to develop one. The company hires someone local to build the website, paying in advance for a few years of Web hosting. Two years later, a hacker breaks in and leaves inflammatory messages on the site's home page. The person who developed the website no longer lives in the area. Since no one at the company has the password to access the server, it takes months to locate someone with the skill to remove the defacement. The company's reputation suffers.
When disaster strikes, it is often possible to undo some of the damage. If your server crashes, a data recovery firm can help. If your website is hacked, you can hire cleanup and reputation management services to undo some of the damage. If a hacker compromises customer information, an attorney can help to minimize your company's liability. In all of these situations, though, the expenses can be much more than you might anticipate -- and cloud computing can prevent them all from ever happening.
How Cloud Computing Helps Small Businesses
Cloud computing makes it possible to move all of the services that currently cause your small business so many headaches -- accounting and CRM databases, websites, hacker protection, payment processing, rotating backups and more -- to remote servers on the Internet.
Many business owners look at the many features of cloud computing and conclude that they could never afford such extensive IT services. Servers are expensive, and the people who manage them command high salaries. If you can barely afford your in-house IT services, how could you afford to outsource them?
Virtualization is the key. Using virtualization technology, cloud providers can subdivide the resources of their servers. Virtualization makes it possible for small businesses to lease server resources only when they're needed. If you aren't actively using the server, you aren't paying for it.
Cloud providers have their own IT staff who monitor the health of the servers, protect the servers from hackers and perform regular backups -- so you don't need to pay for personalized support unless you actually need it.
Even if your business has just one server and one part-time IT specialist, you will save money by switching to cloud computing.
If your business has an in-house server, you probably find that the performance lags in most tasks. If your server hosts a company website, the speed of your Internet connection can cause a poor user experience. If your server hosts a database, the speed of your server's processor, memory and hard drive can cause every transaction to lag.
Cloud computing has the ability to resolve all of your business's IT performance problems. Because cloud computing providers utilize the combined power of many servers, even a small portion of that power is far, far greater than that of a single small business server. More importantly, cloud providers build server farms as close as possible to major Internet hubs for the best networking performance possible.
By moving your business's servers to the cloud, you give yourself and your employees the ability to access any service at any time, from anywhere. Do your salespeople struggle to connect with your CRM database on the road and ultimately lose valuable customer information that could have helped them close more deals? Connectivity is never an issue with cloud services.
Have you considered hiring online freelancers for small tasks? Cloud computing makes hiring online freelancers incredibly easy. You can even restrict their access to crucial resources to protect your business. Since many people can connect to a cloud server and work on the same document simultaneously -- from anywhere in the world -- cloud computing makes online collaboration so easy that you'll wonder why you haven't been doing it all along.