Small Businesses Cut the Cord with Cloud Computing Options
Consumers continue to cut their cords at record rates, as cancellation of pay-TV services remains a primary provider woe. In fact, the nation’s top three providers suffered a net subscription loss of 1.2 million in the second quarter of 2019, compared with a net loss of just 134,000 subscriptions in the same period a year ago.
But cord-cutting now expands far beyond the television arena, as cloud computing also continues its rise to dominance. According to a Flexera survey, public cloud adoption reached an average of 91 percent in 2019.
No matter whether you’re watching a movie on Netflix, placing wireless phone calls or storing files without a disc – it all happens in the cloud. For those less than tech-inclined, the cloud refers to computing servers located in remote data centers that can be accessed anywhere with a compatible device and an internet connection, as opposed to processing and storage on a PC, local server or corporate network. Cloud computing includes application and software, as well as data centers, networking, storage and analytics.
Or, as the National Institute of Standards and Technology describes the cloud:
“Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”
At its basis, the cloud is the internet, and the software and services that operate through the internet make up cloud computing. It can function on a public cloud, a private cloud or a hybrid of the two.
According to a 2018 LogicMonitor survey, 83 percent of company workloads will be stored in the cloud by 2020, allowing businesses to operate not only wirelessly, but also from remote locations. By that point, the global cloud services market is expected to reach $555 billion.
In the past, businesses operated using on-site mainframes that processed software programs and stored data. Now, all of these activities can occur using cloud-based software and storage, which are not only more cost-efficient, but they also allow the business to operate from anywhere that has an internet connection.
“With the advent of the cloud, organizations were able to reduce a lot of overhead and expenses by moving everything into the cloud and having people like Microsoft manage that cloud and make sure it’s more secure than what most companies had on presence,” Rebecca Inoue, partner alliance manager AVI-SPL, a global workplace technology services provider, told Canada’s CBC.
Small business owners are choosing to cut their cords for a variety of reasons, including:
- Businesses that operate out of the cloud are not limited to the storage and memory capacity offered by computers and external hard drives. Cloud-based storage space costs far less than traditional mechanisms.
- Business owners and their employees can access cloud-based programs remotely, increasing productivity and efficiency. Because they can work remotely when necessary, cloud-based computing also improves employee satisfaction. Many small businesses have even eliminated the overhead costs associated with an office as more employees work remotely or from home offices.
- By storing and backing up data in the cloud, business owners improve security, ensuring they can later access all the most recent data with only an internet connection. Neither a natural disaster nor a theft will place your business data in peril.
Small business owners who seek to convert their company operations to cloud-based might wonder where to begin. After all, cutting the cord in an office involves a lot more than subscribing to Hulu and canceling the cable. The transition doesn’t have to be difficult, however, as most cloud-based businesses incorporate the following elements:
Obviously, a cloud-based business must have access to the cloud. When choosing an internet service provider, be sure your internet connection provides a high enough speed to accommodate your office systems and computing tasks. Reliability is key, since lack of access could bring your business to a screeching halt.
The type of cloud computing most familiar to the general public is SaaS, which encompasses any cloud-based applications or programs. In the past, many small businesses were tethered to Microsoft and its Office suite of productivity software. Thanks to cloud computing, small business owners can now choose Microsoft 365, Google’s G Suite of productivity apps, Zoho Office online suite, Apple’s iWork for iCloud or any from a growing list of cloud-based alternatives. The majority of cloud-based applications are available on most popular devices and operating systems.
Of course complete productivity software suites are far from the only SaaS products. The Web is full of free graphics and presentation web-based software options, customer relationship management solutions and point-of-sale software – all available in the cloud.
Small businesses that utilize cloud-based data storage, virtual servers and cloud-based networks participate in the PaaS market. Platforms like SAP provide a bedrock upon which customers can develop, run and manage their own business networks and applications, including database management, operating systems, middleware and development tools.
SAP manages a secure cloud computing environment, and the SAP Cloud Platform integrates business processes and data. Users can both build and deploy secure business applications quickly with the SAP Cloud Platform, while the SAP Analytics Cloud provides reporting and forecasts to simplify business decisions such as financial planning, sales and marketing.
Cloud-based Phone Systems
No business can claim to have cut the cord if there’s still one connected to the office phone. More companies are eliminating the phone bill replacing traditional phones with programs like Skype or Voice over Internet Protocol. Not only does cutting the telephone cord save money, but cloud-based phone systems offer a wide range of features targeted toward a mobile workforce.
Business phone systems are seldom one line with a basic phone attached. Other than the smallest of businesses, most company phone packages include features like voicemail, multiple lines and automated menus – features that don’t come cheap from Ma Bell and her kin.
Cloud-based phone systems, which use the internet to make and receive calls, offer all the same bells and whistles for a fraction of the cost. Plus, cloud-based phone systems allow business phones to be integrated with other operating systems and business applications – increasing efficiencies all around and providing additional data for analysis and improvements.
Our entire society operates on data, and businesses are far from the exception. As efficient as it might be to store company and customer data – including business processes, product information, financial details, etc. – on the cloud, it also boosts the chances of cyber theft or manipulation.
In fact, a recent report from Proofpoint found that 60 percent of top U.S. companies have been victims of cyberattacks. Researchers detected a disturbing 15 million unauthorized login attempts to cloud computing networks of U.S. Fortune 500 companies in the first half of 2019, and 400,000 of those attempts were successful. Yikes!
The Proofpoint report may have pertained to top companies, but the threat of cyberattack pervades all levels of business. Unfortunately, 60 percent of small businesses that suffer a cyber attack go out of business within six months, according to the U.S. National Cyber Security Alliance. Therefore, cyber security is paramount to success.
Fortunately, small business owners who utilize SAP cloud services as part of their plan to cut the office cord can be assured that their data is protected with the highest levels of security.
“SAP Security Research constantly think(s) ahead and prepare a secure way for product development by using information sharing and education sessions,” explained SAP’s head of security research, Gwendoline Tabourin. “We regularly inform the security expert community via the exchange in the security expert JAM page discussions, give updates on trends and solutions in the bi-weekly security exchange sessions for experts at SAP.”
What elements of cloud computing have you implemented in your own business?