According to a recent survey, only 28% of small-business owners completely understand the concept of “cloud” computing, while 27% admit they don’t understand it well or at all.1–2
For business purposes, the “cloud” refers to the delivery of on-demand computing resources over the Internet. Instead of buying, installing, and maintaining hardware, software, and servers, companies may be able to utilize a service provider’s cloud technology tools more simply and at a lower cost.
Small-business owners with limited technology budgets may find that handling at least some of their computer processes in the cloud could save them time and money. However, the costs, benefits, potential risks, and contractual obligations should be weighed carefully before committing to cloud services.
Three types of cloud-based services are available to businesses. Software as a Service (Saas) is when a business rents or borrows online software. Platform as a Service (PaaS) allows companies to build and deliver custom applications for their own commercial purposes. Lastly, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) involves the utilization of servers, networking, storage, data centers, and other computing capabilities on a pay-per-use basis.
Pros and Cons
- Using cloud services allows businesses to scale IT infrastructure up or down quickly to help meet business demands and facilitate growth.
- Cloud applications can make it easier and less expensive for small businesses to keep their technological capabilities up-to-date and take advantage of cutting-edge features.
- Owners and employees can access company files using any device from any location with an Internet connection.
- For disaster planning and business continuation purposes, companies can choose to back up some or all of their data operations in the cloud instead of paying for off-site hardware and storage.
Of course, there are also a few pitfalls to consider. Users must have access to a speedy and reliable Internet connection. As of yet, universal standards for cloud computing have not been established, and some businesses may have intellectual property and/or data security concerns.3
1) eWeek.com, March 22, 2013
2–3) PCMag.com, June 4, 2013, and March 13, 2013
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