The Cloud can help businesses of any size and age save money and streamline operations without having to build an IT infrastructure. Without this burden, business owners are freed up to focus on other parts of their business. It makes sense, then, that young companies are the biggest users of cloud services, according to an AT&T Small Business Tech Poll. Just over half (51%) of all companies less than two years old rely on the cloud for data storage and other capabilities, compared with 40% of businesses that have been up and running for 11 years or more.
Regardless of your business tenure, the cloud can save time and money and foster growth. Here are five ways to put the cloud to work in your company:
1. Back up and store data
Data backup and storage are among the most common uses of the cloud for small businesses. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of cloud users in the poll rely on these functions. Online backup and storage can help protect your company from malware and natural disasters that could impact on-premise hardware. Reputable cloud providers may also offer greater protection since they store their clients’ data on different servers. If one goes down, the others retain it.
Cloud-based backup and storage can also support business growth. Services offer scalable backup and storage to easily accomodate additional employees and computers. Some services also include sophisticated versioning capabilities that let you retain and retrieve older copies of files.
Remember though to continue doing local backups of your data - relying 100% on the cloud doesn't give you the redundancy you need to protect your business from data loss.
2. Gain instant computing power
When you’re in the cloud, you can access computing resources on demand. For startups, this capability offers the freedom to create and experiment without making a huge investment in servers or IT staff. It also provides a way to seamlessly handle surges in demand. Think of a small provider of games for mobile phones whose latest game takes off. The cloud offers a way to manage a sudden flood of usage without forcing the company to buy servers that might sit idle once the peak passes.
3. Access business software
Cloud-based versions of boxed software now exist for bookkeeping, contact management, word processing, and other key business functions. Nearly half (46%) of small businesses that use cloud services access productivity tools online, the poll found. Cloud-based software frees businesses from licensing fees and allows users to work from any Internet-connected device. Since the software is updated automatically, users always have access to the latest features.
4. Improve collaboration
Another benefit of the cloud is enabling remote staffers to work together in real time. If your team is dispersed in different locations, you could use a cloud-based file-sharing service to update timelines, pitch decks, and other documents wherever you are — in the office, at home, or on the road using your smartphones. You could also take advantage of web-based conferencing services to conduct meetings and connect with remote customers and suppliers through your computer or mobile devise, without needing to get on an airplane or buy costly conferencing equipment.
5. Build and maintain a web presence
Cloud-based web hosting and design tools can make it easier to build and maintain a compelling web presence through do-it-yourself tools for creating web pages, including mobile-friendly ones, intuitive dashboards for easy updating, analytics tools for monitoring website and mobile traffic, and domain-based email with built-in calendaring and collaboration tools. Cloud-based web hosting also makes it easy to add e-commerce capabilities so that you can sell through your website.
Written by the AT&T Voice Team