The explosive growth in cloud computing has resulted in huge benefits to small businesses, from significant cost savings to increased efficiencies.
It has also sparked confusion, with many asking: "What does 'cloud computing' mean and what's in it for me as a small business owner?"
Turns out there's not really a simple answer to the first part of this question, since there are many forms of cloud computing, including SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service), MSP's (Managed Service Providers), to name a few.
However, the "What's in it for me?" question is easier to answer.
A cloud service enables a business of any size -- small to large -- to increase capacity or add
capabilities on the fly without investing in new infrastructure, training new personnel, or licensing new software.
To learn more about the benefits of the cloud, watch this short video from cloud service provider j2 Global:
Put simply, a cloud service enables a company to expand services, without the costs normally associated with expansion.
For example, an online fax service or virtual voice service enables a small business to reap the benefits of having professional fax or voice capabilities, without the need for a fax machine (including cost of phone line) or PBX system for the phone.
In the case of online fax, a small business based in Los Angeles can quickly establish a local presence in a city such as Dublin, Ireland or Tokyo by signing up with an online fax provider whose network includes local Dublin or Tokyo numbers. Having a local number creates the perception of a local presence, along with added the benefit of enabling a customer to do business with you in that region without paying a long distance fee to connect.
When considering a cloud service provider for your business, here are a few key points to consider:
- Is the cloud service provider reputable?
How long has the company been in business? The longer, the better.
Is the company publicly or privately held? Publicly held companies must report financial data, so you can get a sense of how healthy the company is.
- How extensive is the company's network?
Your ability to take advantage of the core benefit of a cloud service company -- the ability to expand your business on the fly by adding presence in another city -- is limited by the size of the company's network. For example, If you desire to set up a virtual office in India because you're doing business in the region, but your cloud service provider does not have a network point of presence there, you're out of luck.
- Can you get both local and toll free numbers?
- A primary benefit of a local fax number is that it brands your business as connected to the community you are targeting. So, even if you're based in Los Angeles and want to do business in Cleveland, getting a fax number (with a Cleveland area code) goes a long way in branding your business as "local," and you receive faxes to that number via your designated email address
A cloud service provider can bring significant benefits to your business, including time and money savings. But, don't just pick a cloud service provider solely based on price. Look for a company that has a proven track record as a service provider (for example, cloud service provider j2 Global has been in business since 1995), and one that has a large footprint (j2 Global's network covers 49 countries on 6 continents).
The bottom line? Find the right cloud service provider, and expand your business without the worries of increasing your overhead.