Often subscription-based, sometimes free, cloud-based services provide real-time access to all aspects of a small business’s operations through phones, tablets, laptops or desktops from anywhere in the world.
Five ways the cloud can benefit your business
How cloud-based services can help you keep pace with large companies
If your company uses Facebook, Twitter or other social media, you may not realize it, but you’re already doing business in the cloud.
Here are five other key benefits that cloud services provide small and medium-sized businesses:
1. Fast, easy adoption
Unlike hardware and one-time-purchase software products that require upfront investments, cloud-service subscriptions provide instant access to the latest and greatest technologies. The complexity and price of cloud-based tools can range from basic and free – for example, using Messenger to provide customer service from your company’s Facebook page – to the most sophisticated applications on the market.
2. Flexibility and measurability
Cloud services are infinitely scalable, ranging from basic free data storage to unlimited usage. Often these services have built-in analysis capabilities that can help SMEs see trends and plan for the future. “It’s easier for a smaller business to make these changes,” said Nyla Ahmad, Senior Vice-President of Enterprise Marketing at Rogers. Ahmad was speaking at a recent forum in Toronto hosted by Digital Main Street, an organization that connects small businesses with digital-technology providers. Owner-operators have the autonomy to seek alternative solutions and experiment with new products.
3. Mobility and collaboration
With cloud services, any screen can be used for any digital task, allowing teams to collaborate more efficiently, even if sales reps are on the road or the bookkeeper lives in another province. With cloud communications apps, you don’t have to be in the same room to bounce around some blue-sky ideas. When in-person meetings are required, a shared cloud calendar can reduce scheduling headaches. A handy side benefit of cloud collaboration is that it can prevent data loss; the work you’ve done doesn’t disappear if a hard drive crashes.
4. Strategic outsourcing
With any-screen access, work processes can be reimagined, outsourced and tracked remotely – a real advantage for lean operations with little or no real estate. “You want to focus on mastering your craft, doing what you want to do and focusing on why you got into the business in the first place,” said Jazz Samra, Head of Channel Sales at Google, during the forum. The rest can be automated or farmed out.
5. Connected applications
By using compatible cloud services, your company can collect data once and repurpose it across multiple platforms, allowing for increased efficiency, analysis and innovation. The online storefront solution Shopify, for example, has an app store allowing its vendors to connect third-party cloud services – such as shipping, inventory and accounting tools – to their ecommerce storefront. A single Web portal can give an owner-operator a detailed overview of the business.
Cloud-based services can level the playing field for SMEs going up against larger competitors. “Before, a lot of technology was cost-prohibitive for small businesses,” said Lynne Clarke-Drew, Customer Acquisition Lead, SMB at Microsoft, at the Digital Main Street event. “But with the cloud, the same technology that the huge corporations of the world use is the same technology small businesses use.”