WHAT is the cloud? How does it work? How will it help my business save or make money?
Cloud computing is a game changer for small businesses, offering advantages that previously only the big players could afford.
It lets a small to medium enterprise pay less for superior IT infrastructure, and keep running when technology goes awry, as it does.
It lets you use computer systems and software on an industrial scale beyond the four walls of your business, without buying them upfront - you pay only for what you use.
And those facilities are available to your staff wherever and whenever they need them. All they need is internet access to get to the data and, in some cases, the software they need.
You pay for the service in much the same way as you would pay for water or power, based on your business's consumption.
Servers, data and programs can be shared between organisations and users in the office or remotely - and where appropriate, with customers and the public. For example, some health insurers use the cloud to give away fitness apps. Car insurers are trying mobile games to boost driving skills.
Cloud services are scalable, so can expand when you need more or reduce in quieter times.
Small businesses' IT infrastructure is normally limited in budget and resources. The cloud allows a smaller player to have IT services on a shelf, ready to be requested and used without an upfront investment or major delay - effectively switching from capex (capital expenditure) to opex (operational expenditure).
And in times of disaster, it allows to business to keep working even when its office is underwater, because all data and servers are external to the business and backed up remotely.
Small businesses should ask these questions before jumping into the cloud:
- Is the cloud service provider a legitimate, long-term business? If it were to fold, or your business decided to move back to self-hosted IT, what would happen to your data?
- Who can see your sensitive data?
- Where will your data physically be stored?
- Is the cloud provider open to external audits?
- How does data back-up and recovery work?
- Do service level agreements meet your needs?
Where to get free help and advice
Your local Telstra Business Centre and this newspaper have assembled a panel of technology experts to update local business owners on how they can harness the power of new technology to help drive your business.
To have breakfast on us and hear from the experts while networking with local peers, register on the links below.