Nothing about the traditional concept of a cloud ever made it seem like something that could support a business. An angel, maybe, but not a business.
Light, fluffy, almost ephemeral — clouds were something you looked at only to daydream, rather than build and grow. Unless you had a parachute, you wouldn’t want to try standing on one.
The introduction of cloud computing, on the other hand, has managed to dramatically change what we think of as the foundation on which to launch and scale a modern-day company.
The cloud, in this case, has become a true platform in that it provides the underlying capabilities of infrastructure, storage and applications that can allow entrepreneurs to execute on their business plans.
Among the many benefits of cloud computing, one of the best has to be the way it can serve organizations regardless of whether they are a large enterprise or a small- to medium-sized business (SMB). In a sense, the cloud has democratized the ability to take on compute power, access software and tune IT to fit the exact pace of customer demands or other business needs.
Part of the problem is that there’s no universal owner’s manual for the cloud. That’s because it’s not a single thing but a series of products and services offered by a number of different providers. That can muddy the waters for SMBs who don’t have time to wade through a lot of background information.
Instead, let’s take a closer look at some of the biggest reasons you should be talking about a business case for the cloud today:
SMBs used to be locked in a cycle of feeling that they were in constant catch-up mode when it came to IT.
They might have bought some servers, for instance, and then installed versions of the software they felt were essential to their daily tasks. Before too long, however, the servers and the software would have to be replaced.
Putting off upgrades is always tempting, but it also carries significant risk. Besides the potential cybersecurity issues old applications and hardware might cause, SMBs might encounter systems that simply don’t work as well as expected (or at all). That, in turn, could damage the customer experience that leads to long-term success.
Running IT in the cloud means SMBs are able to get updates automatically to their most important applications, and that they can increase the level of compute power or storage in parallel with how they’re growing. This doesn’t always mean the cloud is cheaper, but that you’ll be managing your costs in a way that makes more sense.
SMBs are often scarce on resources, including people. You need to make sure they can spend as much time as they can doing the things that build the business. This could include driving demand, closing sales or providing after-sale support and assistance to customers.
Traditionally these were all things that required employees to come in and be physically present within the office at all times. Cloud-based tools can boost productivity by enabling a more distributed workforce, or providing remote work and flexible options to those team members who need it most.
This also means that SMBs don’t necessarily have to limit their hires to those who live nearby but could bring on talent from other locations, and that they can also expand into new geographies to serve more customers.
There’s nothing worse than getting an email back about an important document or file from a colleague that says, “That’s the wrong version!”
Immediately you know two things: you’re going to have to go hunting through your inbox or a shared drive somewhere to find the right version, and that you’re probably going to lose time you’d allocated towards other tasks as a result.
The cloud has allowed organizations to avoid this kind of issue and foster greater collaboration via word processing tools, spreadsheets and other applications that they can access from anywhere and work on at the same time.
All changes to shared files are immediately updated, allowing the team to feel “in sync” as if they were working next to each other and looking at the same screen.
No technology has gotten more attention in the past few years than artificial intelligence (AI), but without the cloud SMBs might have felt as though they were destined to remain on the outside looking in.
After all, AI is often based on algorithms that require large amounts of compute power in order to churn through the reams of structured and unstructured data about customers and operations.
Instead, many AI tools are available directly through the cloud or are added as features and capabilities within applications that SMBs are already accessing through the cloud.
There’s a big difference between a product and a true platform. As the name suggests, the latter represents something that companies can use the way an actor delivers a unique performance on a stage.
When your business needs to create its own custom applications, for instance, the process can be expensive if you have to set up your own production environment with servers and other tools.
Using a cloud-based platform for development, on the other hand, can provide SMBs with the same building blocks, like application programming interfaces (APIs) and software development kits (SDKs) of much larger organizations. That means you have a way to drive growth based on the specific opportunities of your organization and the customer problems you’re trying to solve.
There are plenty of other examples of where the cloud could help an SMB grow, but what about starting with this handful of ideas and kick-starting a discussion about the biggest “wins” you could achieve within the next month, quarter or even calendar year? The cloud is ready to get down to business — including the business of growing as an SMB.