In today’s world of technology, many companies are utilizing software to manage their business, whether it is a robust Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system or spreadsheets stored on a desktop. With the amount of information that is managed electronically growing, the cloud has become indispensable in our use of software and data, and throughout our daily business lives. So, what exactly is cloud computing, and why is it so important?
The cloud model
Cloud computing allows information to be stored on servers and accessed by users over the internet, rather than stored and accessed locally through a hard drive or network server. An excellent example of this concept is the use of applications on cell phones. Many smartphone software applications run on a data or internet connection. The typical smartphone user accesses an incredible amount of data each day. Storing this data on the phone's hard drive would cause it to overload and slow down, becoming impossible to use. The cloud enables a user to access more data without compromising speed and efficiency or requiring massive amounts of local storage capacity.
Protection of data
With the transition in business over the past two decades from using paper to computers for information and document storage, a primary concern for business owners is the loss of data. In the United States, 140,000 hard drive crashes occur each week. The estimated cost of this failure and resulting disruption to the average small business would amount to $15,000 per day.(1) It is important to put plans in place to handle this scenario, such as data backups and a disaster recovery plan. The costs can add up, however, with daily backups, knowledgeable IT staff, and ongoing investments in the most recent server and software technologies.
Protection against data breaches and cyberattacks
Business websites and online transactions are at risk of data breaches or cyberattacks. By 2017, 64% percent of Americans had been affected by a data breach.(2) Every few months, another large organization is in the news as they scramble to recover and regain their customers’ trust. In 2017 alone, Equifax, Uber, Yahoo and the National Security Agency (NSA) were among the many organizations that experienced large-scale hacks, with millions of accounts compromised.
The statistics are even more alarming for small businesses. Forty-three percent of these attacks target such vulnerable organizations, and 60% go out of business within six months of being hit.(3) Cyberattacks have unfortunately become all too common, so how can a small business have an online presence and still limit their risks?
There are many ways to fight off cyberattacks; these include strong firewalls, penetration and vulnerability testing, and a solid infrastructure of servers and software. These measures can be prohibitively expensive for smaller organizations to set up locally; maintenance requires an annual investment of thousands of dollars and a highly trained IT staff.
The cloud delivers these benefits to small businesses cost effectively
With the costs involved to prevent data loss and maintain security on an ongoing basis, a technology provider with a cloud environment is invaluable for a small business. The provider has the resources and knowledge to manage the regular upkeep and security of their servers, while their economies of scale make cloud services affordable for many organizations. For the small business, software applications are implemented quicker, backups and upgrades are automated, and increases in data storage are efficiently allocated to ensure software speed and data availability. The reduction of technology costs and increase in flexibility allows organizations to do what they do best: focus on supporting their customers and growing their businesses.