The migration of business to the cloud is accelerating. By the end of 2017, nearly half of large enterprises will have hybrid IT models incorporating cloud-based networks into their infrastructure to some degree, Gartner predicts. Small businesses are riding the same trend. Technology provider CDW reports that the number of smaller enterprises using cloud solutions doubled in 2012.
The benefits attracting companies to the cloud include cost-efficiency, mobile accessibility/collaboration and back-up security, says technology journalist Michael Ansaldo in the Intuit Small Business Blog. Even companies with existing IT infrastructures are paying significant amounts of money to migrate to the cloud to enjoy these benefits. If you're just starting up, you can have the advantage of the cloud from the get-go.
Create Your Office in the Cloud
One advantage the cloud affords start-ups is the ability to save on rent and travel by setting up an office entirely online or with minimal physical space. The Guardian reports that many companies are moving their IT department, their software applications and even their entire business online by taking advantage of on-demand services, virtual file storage and Internet-enabled phone calls. For companies that require a physical presence, the cloud can work with both a virtual and physical office. As Gateway Executive Suites explains, companies can rent only the office services they need for a fraction of the cost of a traditional rental. They can use the cloud for features such as phone answering and conference rooms because they are available on-demand.
Manage Projects Remotely
A cloud-supported office lets your company manage projects from anywhere. You can use workers at any location on any timetable, creating the capability for remote project management. Microsoft Project is a popular solution for large enterprises, but as TechRepublic IT consultant Ken Hardin details, many alternatives are available for companies of all sizes, including Zoho Projects, Planbox, ProWorkflow, Basecamp and Milestone Planner. Capterra provides a more comprehensive guide to other cloud project management solutions.
Store Data Electronically
Take advantage of the cloud's remote project management capability with virtual file storage and sharing, which is one of the most demanded cloud services. PCWorld reports that the popularity of Microsoft Office 365 as a storage solution has prompted Google to release a rival service called Drive for Work, offering unlimited storage for $10 per month per user. But this is but one of the many available options. For a comparison of available services, Top 10 Cloud Storage offers a detailed review of the leading storage solutions on the market.
Showcase Your Storefront Anywhere
The cloud expands the market reach of small businesses by letting companies connect with customers anywhere using e-commerce showrooms. For instance, Amazon Web Services lets businesses of any size tap into an e-commerce infrastructure that provides a solution for online sales and retailing. Small businesses can use such solutions to enjoy professional-quality efficiency and security at a cost scaled to their needs. Rackspace provides an overview of best practices to follow when doing e-commerce from the cloud.