By: Tess Taylor
on Wednesday, June 01, 2011
As a business owner, you may be hearing the term “cloud computing” going around in your network and are wondering what this is and how it works. Cloud computing, or virtualization, has actually been around for quite some time, but is rapidly catching on with small businesses everywhere. This is due, in part, to the convenience and cost savings that cloud computing provides. Let’s take a look at what cloud computing is and how it can help your business this year.
Small Business Cloud Computing Basics
Sometime between the foundation of the Internet and the invention of virtualization software applications, cloud computing was born. Chances are you are already using some cloud computing applications in your everyday life. When you access your email from your web browser, when you check messages on your mobile phone, and if you like to watch movies online – you are using cloud computing functions!
In a nutshell, cloud computing is accessing information, records and performing tasks using web-based applications and storage centers. How they differ from other forms of computing is that you no longer need a physical server in your office to store data and run software for your office network. Instead, all your applications and data, from office productivity to personal software can be accessed via an Internet based server. See how this works? Now, let’s talk about who’s using it and why it’s becoming popular with small businesses.
According to recent studies conducted by Gartner, Inc., a leading technology research and advisory company, the worldwide cloud computing marketing is estimated at $8 billion with the US market making up approximately 40% of this growing sector of the business world. By 2013, Gartner predicts that this number will grow to over $14 billion by the year 2013. In terms of small businesses, who make up 65% of the total business community, this may indicate that more are actively pursuing cloud computing as a way to keep costs down, improve processes and transition to a mobile workforce.
“Small businesses, which are generally at the forefront of new technology in use, have many good reasons for utilizing cloud computing for everyday business needs” says Joseph D. Wilbanks, owner of technology firm Cambium Technology Group
, “Cloud computing is becoming the preferred method of delivering information, resources and streamlining business processes.” Since 2008, Mr. Wilbanks has been using cloud computing for his business clients because “of the high robustness it provides even a small business and the overall ease of management.”
Small Business Advantages of Cloud Computing
The small business advantages of cloud computing are many. First and foremost is the availability of data, accessible virtually anywhere a secure Internet connection exists. With the creation of VMware, a solution that allows multiple machines to run from a single host machine, businesses are able to store and share massive amounts of data from multiple terminals without fear that an on-site physical server will go down. In the past, this has cost businesses millions of dollars in lost time, data and production.
Another advantage of the cloud computing model is that people are free to work off-site and to collaborate on team projects from anywhere in the world. This has revolutionized the way people work and has opened up the door for more home-based businesses and teleworkers, who now make up more than 11% of the current small business network. And this is not just limited to private businesses. A recent report from Telework Exchange, a well-respected independent research organization, indicated that “Over half of all federal employees work at least part time using cloud computing networks and report higher levels of productivity and a continuity of services.”
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Perhaps the biggest advantage of cloud computing is in the overall cost savings to businesses. Mr. Wilbanks advises that ”while there are many benefits associated with cloud computing, the biggest by far for a small business is reduced IT costs, and being able to establish a IT presence that has the look and feel of a major corporation - without an entire IT department. Clearly this represents a massive cost savings for any small, medium, or large business.” We have to agree on this. Using cloud computing is not without its own unique challenges, but it does continue to evolve as businesses demand lower cost alternatives to in-house IT networks.
Is Cloud Computing Right for Your Business?
As mentioned before, you are most likely already using a certain aspect of cloud computing to run your daily tasks as a business owner. There are many ways in which a business of any size and industry can benefit from cloud computing technology as a whole. Consider that this technology will only continue to grow and add value to your company in the years ahead, much like the Internet and computing have made things better for the business world over the last few decades.