Small and Mid Sized Businesses Have Increased Profits Due to the Cloud
28 July 2014
Cloud computing is a term used to describe how shared resources, software, and information is provided to computers and other devices over the Internet rather than as a product. With the cloud, there is no hardware or software to manage, and the internet connection is faster and more reliable. Using cloud services provides businesses with a simple and cost efficient way to meet compliance requirements, drive revenue, and manage their IT needs.
Internet-based Services Level the Playing Field
A research study conducted by Oxford Economics and Windstream Communications concluded that cloud computing is changing the dynamics of small and mid-sized business practices. Large corporations have always been able to integrate the most current technology into their infrastructure; however, small and mid-sized businesses have always been slow to upgrade their computing systems, software, and communication services due to the exorbitant cost of contracting a competent IT company or managing an in-house IT team. Cloud computing services offer small and mid-sized businesses a chance to control their IT needs and focus on becoming a competitive force in today’s business market. As more small and mid-sized businesses incorporate Internet-based services into their infrastructure, such as server hosting, Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP), virtual desktops, and software management, they cut costs. The survey by Oxford Economics and Windstream Communications also determined that 32 percent of the businesses studied agree that cloud computing has improved teamwork and innovation, which has improved their customer service, time management, profit margin, and efficiency. Most importantly, the report stated that 55 percent of the businesses surveyed agree that cloud services were vital to the longevity of their businesses.
In taking a closer look at why many small and mid-sized businesses have fast tracked to cloud computing, they realize there are more affordable resources available through cloud computing versus mainframe/terminal host computing. Also, they know that cloud storage providers can quickly address a customer’s request from a remote location. This efficiency is necessary for the survival of small and mid-sized businesses in that it leads to faster networking and Internet connectivity, and a more resourceful and economical way to keep in contact with customers.
The Cloud is Customer Friendly
Customers are the life source of a business, and small and mid-sized businesses know they need a trouble-free way to communicate with existing customers and solicit potential customers. Cloud service providers offer small and mid-sized businesses the means to create a virtual calling center. In 2010, the FCC released a report that stated there were over 30 million VoIP subscribers in the U.S. alone. Many small and mid-sized businesses have learned to reallocate the funds they have saved on hardware and employee costs to marketing and product development. With VoIP services they save even more without “skimping” on the customer service. Gone is the need for a room full of people and a closet full of phone lines, hardware, and phone switches. Likewise, there is no need to hire a technical support team to operate and fix or upgrade the phone lines and hardware should anything go wrong. VoIP simply transmits a person’s voice over the Internet as data. The only hardware VoIP requires is a computer or a laptop, which a customer service representative can work on from a remote location. VoIP services are just one of the many processes that cloud service providers offer that have helped small and mid-sized companies do well in today’s fledgling economy.
If you run a small to mid-sized business and want to incorporate cloud services into your business’s infrastructure, there are four types of services that cloud service companies will offer in several variations. Here is a breakdown of the services that are sure to give your small or mid-sized business a competitive edge.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
As the leading cloud computing platform businesses have embraced, SaaS allows businesses to lease time on servers that have specific applications installed, such as Dropbox, Salesforce.com, Google Apps, and QuickBooks. If a small business owner has a need for a more accurate way to keep track of employee hours, SaaS systems offer virtual time sheets and employee tracking suites. There are SaaS systems for practically any kind of business need. While SaaS platforms vary in usage capacities and costs, they are not expensive. SaaS models range from the ad-supported models like YouTube and Facebook to monthly, annually, or pay-as-you-go models like DoAttend.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
IaaS is a basic type of service that allows businesses to purchase space on remote servers on which to install applications, utilize data space, or perform business functions. Employees only need to connect to the cloud to perform business tasks. IaaS servers allow business to design their own operating systems. IDC, a market research firm that specializes in analyzing information technology, ranks IBM, HP, Cisco, and AT&T as the preferred IaaS providers. Other IaaS providers include Amazon, Microsoft, Rackspace, and Google Compute Engine.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
PaaS allows businesses to create, use, and combine custom made apps with databases and line-of-business services. In this model, the operating system, development environment or database setup is already configured. PaaS enables a business to install applications that will help it run more efficiently, streamlining the development process by transferring certain aspects of its systems management to the contracted service provider. Examples of PaaS include Engine Yard, Windows Azure, Red Hat OpenShift, and Google App Engine.
Security as a Service (SECaaS)
SECaaS offers businesses security management, such as intrusion detection, antivirus and anti-malware protection, and authentication. This model will send constant virus status updates to a business, as well as to either outsource administrative tasks or organize and complete those same tasks.
Cloud computing is the newest technology that the corporate business world is looking into; therefore, small and mid-sized business who are not using these services may want to revamp their business strategies to include them. Within the next few years, mom-and-pop stores, down-home restaurants, and local fashion retailers will have the competitive gain over larger businesses as long as they outsource their business needs to Internet based service providers and focus on their products and customers. Small and mid-sized businesses already cater to a loyal customer base; incorporating the most current and resourceful technology will only open the door to a loyal global customer base.
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