By Kara Masterson

kara-mastersonThere is no question that cloud computing is the greatest information technology advance of the 21st century, particularly for business. However, many companies have yet to leverage the full potential of this new information standard. To get a good sense of the real advantage of cloud computing as it relates to the business world, it helps to evaluate the material benefits available to small business owners.

1.     Hardware, Space and Energy Savings

Hardware reduction is often cited as a major benefit of cloud computing, but there is more than just equipment savings at stake. In purely financial terms, cloud computing creates an economy of scale that provides savings on more than just office computers.

Cloud computing savings are often estimated to be 80 percent than what they used to be in the days when companies were expected to house their own servers and look after their own networks. There are also space and energy savings to consider. Electricity costs to keep a server in operation in a major U.S. metropolitan area can easily run $500 per month. The reduced office space is not limited to the server room. Cloud computing also empowers companies to hire remote workers and freelancers who can mostly work from home instead of taking up office workstations.

2.     Real-Time Collaboration

Project management tools and productivity applications have largely migrated to the cloud. The modern paradigm of cloud-based project management means that work teams are able to access documents, share files and provide updates from wherever they may be. All this is made possible by the proliferation of internet-connected mobile devices and cross-platform apps.

Cloud computing has virtually eliminated the barrier to entry in this regard. For example, a very small business can take advantage of a free subscription to Microsoft Office 365 and start using Yammer for a project. Later, the company could start paying an entry-level subscription for less than $10 per month per team member.

3.     Data Security and Compliance

For the most part, cloud solutions tend to offer greater information security than what business owners can provide on their own. Cloud service providers have a strong business interest in making sure that their clients’ data is always protected, secure and can be accessed even when disaster strikes.

To guarantee a high level of security and constant access, cloud providers apply certain measures such as mirroring, redundancy and offsite replications. In terms of regulatory compliance, cloud providers sometimes attract clients in certain industries such as finance, healthcare and retail, which need to be respectively compliant with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard.

4.     Corporate and Operational Flexibility

Business owners who decide to implement cloud solutions in their companies often do so because they seek to gain a competitive edge through agility. The ability of an organization to make rapid changes to its operations and to adapt to new challenges can be augmented with the help of cloud computing. An example of corporate agility boosted by cloud computing would be a law firm that is trying to land a contract to retain a major dental clinic as a client. The clinical director would prefer working with a law firm that can handle HIPAA compliance through a hybrid cloud setup to exchange electronic health records. Cloud service providers can quickly get this law firm up and running with what they need to comply with HIPAA so that they can sign a retainer contract with the dental clinic.

5.     Control Over Information

Company data policies are easy to enforce when the information resides in the cloud. With the right Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) package, a business owner or manager can rest assured that all documents can be stored in a sole, centralized location instead of relying on the old method of sending email attachments back and forth.

In the end, small business owners have a lot to gain and little to lose when they move their data infrastructure to the cloud. It really is amazing how much of a difference it makes.

About the Author

Kara Masterson is a freelance writer from Utah. She enjoys tennis and spending time with her family.