Although it’s been around for a while now, cloud computing has only recently become a popular phenomenon in the business world, particularly when it comes to small businesses and SMEs. 

Given its numerous benefits in terms of security, flexibility, cost and accessibility, it comes as no surprise that 88% of UK businesses now use cloud computing services.

In this article, IT and communications specialists Cloud Central explore the true value of cloud computing, providing you with our top 6 reasons why every small business should be utilising the cloud if they want to keep up with the times and stay ahead of the game. 

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud Computing or ‘the cloud’ is a general term for anything that involves the on-demand delivery of hosted services over the internet. This includes online servers, databases, storage, software, analytics and intelligence. 

Without realising it, most of us will be using cloud computing on a daily basis. Whether it be through social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, via email services such as Outlook or Gmail, or the various apps we have on our phones, we are constantly using and accessing data stored in the cloud.

So, why exactly should small businesses use cloud computing?

Reduced business costs 

A major benefit cloud computing provides is its cost saving potential. Instead of paying for expensive computer equipment, software, hardware, IT resources or even outsourcing your data management, businesses can save money by rolling separate application needs into one multi-application cloud computing system. 

Furthermore, with most software and third-party services, you are required to pay a fixed subscription fee. With cloud services, however, you usually only pay for what you use, enabling businesses to reduce their operating costs and improve cash flow. 

Improved efficiency & flexibility

In what is now an incredibly fast-paced business world, companies are always on the lookout for new ways to be more efficient with their time. Cloud computing offers businesses exactly that. Nowadays, there are a multitude of cloud-based apps that can carry out a number of important business tasks much quicker than traditional software or on-site data centres. 

Removing the need for time-consuming data processing and software patching, cloud computing offers a much more efficient solution that not only saves time, but also affords businesses greater planning flexibility and most importantly allows them to focus on more essential business activity. 

With a range of tools readily available to use, companies are able to address all different types of business issues in a matter of minutes. Whether it be regarding things such as communication, data storage, inventory or payroll management, cloud services are on hand to provide fast and easy access to data, information and contacts in just a few clicks. 

Reduced risk

For small businesses in the early stages of development, risk management is absolutely vital. Although growth may be the ultimate objective, businesses cannot grow without effective disaster recovery in place. In comparison to traditional software and on-site system data centres, cloud computing is far more reliable, giving you that extra peace of mind if disaster does strike. 

By using the cloud as a storage facility, businesses are able to back up important data and information, which can be easily accessed in the case of a disaster. On the most basic level, something as simple as using Google Docs to create a document or report is a lot safer than using Microsoft Word, as these files can easily become corrupted or deleted. 

Business cloud services such as Dropbox or Google Drive enable companies to safely store, protect and share large files that would otherwise occupy a lot of space on computers and servers. The risk of these files being lost or corrupted is also completely mitigated.

Strengthened Security

Much like the risk management benefits, the cloud provides absolute security over sensitive data, apps, infrastructure and potential online threats/viruses. On-site data centres and legacy systems are far more likely to be hacked than cloud services, which are often equipped with multiple controls, technologies and policies to help protect your data and prevent it from ending up in the wrong hands. 

For the most part, you can set up multi-factor authentication in the systems themselves, which further strengthens security. For example, password management solution Passpack requires several unlock codes and exclusive admin access for users to see passwords for certain programs and accounts. 

Easy Access

The beauty of cloud computing is that no matter what time it is or where you are, you can access data stored on the cloud. Unlike most software, all that is required is an internet connection, meaning businesses can work collaboratively with their colleagues on exactly the same projects at exactly the same time. 

Customisable to Suit Your Business

Another major plus for small businesses using cloud computing is scalability. If the core objective for SMEs is growth, then the cloud is ideal for managing that growth in the most suitable and cost-effective way. 

Many cloud computing services are fine-tuned to provide you with the right amount of capacity at the right time, whilst also giving you the option to either reduce or add capacity depending on your business needs, fluctuations in demand or a general change in circumstances. Not only does this help keep costs down, but it also enables your business to grow at the same pace as your infrastructure. 

Whether it be an alteration of computing power, storage or bandwidth, the functionality of the cloud means that the correct amount of IT resources can be allocated, as and when, to support your business in the best possible way.