12 Nov 2012
By Mark Evans
Cloud computing is the latest tech buzzword. Don’t be intimidated: it’s a simple idea that’s great for small business.
The cloud simply refers to being able to store data remotely on the web, instead of on your hard drive. It means you can access your information anywhere, even in the event of a computer meltdown. The cloud is also a way to access online services and applications rather than using software installed on your computer. Again, it means you can access these services anywhere on any computer.
Here’s what you need to know to take advantage of the cloud for your business.
For free or for a nominal fee you can access and store your data on cloud services. The biggest one is easily Google Drive. This site offers a myriad of services, including cloud based email (via Gmail), calendar, word processing and spreadsheets.
Google Drive is unique in that your documents exist live on the web and when you revise them, the revisions save automatically. These are great collaborative documents that allow many users such as your staff to update events on the calendar or dollar figures into a spreadsheet that everyone can see. The service is free for 5GB of storage and for $4.99 a month you can get 100 GB.
The other big player in the cloud is Dropbox. It operates on a drag-and-drop approach and starts out free for minimal storage and charges $9.99 a month for 100MB. You can invite people to share folders on the cloud, so it’s great for sharing information inside a company and with partners.
There are an array of other services out there such as SugarSync, iCloud, as well professional level services companies will set up for you — at a cost.
- You and your team can use services and access documents anywhere: from a meeting, on the road, from home. There’s no such thing anymore as forgetting your computer or information back at the office: you can get it anywhere.
- Computer problems? You can still get your data.
- Great for collaborating and sharing.
- You can move large files such as videos and images around easily between colleagues and partners.
- You pay for what you get. Using a free or inexpensive service doesn’t guarantee you total security of your private documents. These clouds can crash or get hacked.
- You still need to have a good data backup protocol in place. The cloud is not enough.
- Human error on the cloud can mean staffers might accidentally erase something, move to a file others can’t access or share it with the wrong person. You need to set protocols in place.
- Staff members can use the company’s cloud service for their own personal pictures and videos and use up your data space.
- Using multiple cloud services in a small company can result in data becoming disorganized.
Start small with the cloud and find a service that works for your company. Invest slowly — money and time wise — and increase the stakes you put into the cloud until you see just what it can do for you.