An underlying theme we’re witnessing for the UK’s economy in 2017 is uncertainty. Recent events have led to an unknown future for many small business owners, who are questioning if now is a good time to be making big investments, plan for their future, or scale their company. This will vary between business and industry, but while uncertainty continues, businesses can concentrate on updating work practices and future-proofing the working environment. There is no better place to start than making sure your workforce is seamlessly connected, and one way to do this is by embracing the cloud. Earlier this year, Xero’s Make or Break Report uncovered that almost half (42%) of SMBs are exchanging traditional office structures for remote working and flexible hours, which means four walls don’t confine today’s offices, and hours are no longer restricted to 9 to 5.
As the workplace continues to become more and more flexible, here are five other reasons small businesses can benefit if they shift their work practices to the cloud by 2018.
No need for an IT team
While at work, it’s not uncommon to encounter corrupt files, see alerts about potentially dangerous malware, come across remote access issues and more. Where a larger business can simply put the IT team on the case to resolve the issue, a small business might not have that luxury. When their systems fail it’s up to the small business owner to troubleshoot and resolve any IT issues. However, when you use cloud-based solutions, the vendor will help you get back online as quickly as possible should you have any issues. For smaller businesses who can’t afford to hire or train staff that have expertise in IT, this is a great bonus of using cloud applications. Provided you have an Internet connection, you’re all set.
Access, access, access
Remote work was once a novelty, but with the advent of the Internet, and subsequent proliferation of cloud applications in business, remote work is now the new normal. But with its growth, companies found issues in their employees accessing files, losing documents, and far too many attachments being sent for office-based workers to save down into the system. With the cloud, as long as you’re connected to the internet, you’re connected to your work. You can log in from any Internet-enabled device to applications like G Suite, a set of applications that facilitates collaboration across multiple stakeholders on documents and presentations. So, if your preference is to work from home, a coffee shop, or even outside, it’s all possible with the cloud.
Safe and secure
People are surprised to hear that the cloud has been around for decades, and in that time it has matured into one of the safest and most secure ways to store data. Cloud service providers invest heavily in their security platforms, with bank grade security, and are constantly seeking to strengthen their systems from attack. The main vulnerability to cloud computing, as is the case with any data protection, is ‘social engineering’. This is when a hacker attempts to manipulate information from workers, getting hold of passwords and codes through phishing or scams. That’s why it’s always useful to give your staff an induction into best practices to avoid being hacked (regardless of whether they use cloud or not) and embrace two-factor authentication in cloud apps (where available) to further reduce the risk of being a victim of being hacked.
Imagine if the server that holds all your critical business information suddenly fails, or is stolen. What would happen, and how long would it take to get your business back online? This fear is very real for the majority of businesses that have not yet realised the benefit of the cloud. Businesses that have embraced cloud computing store no data locally so don’t need to worry. If a computer gets lost or stolen – simply login with another device for instant access to your business data.
Time is money, money is time
Small business owners need as much time as possible to focus on what they do best: running their business. They shouldn’t have to endure the headache of keeping systems up-to-date and maintaining IT infrastructure. Running your own servers can incur significant up-front capital costs, but when you pay for a cloud-based solution, you pay one fee and the application and infrastructure are provided and supported as part of the subscription.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of cloud computing is the productivity gain from employees working more collaboratively with one another, being able to work on the same documents at the same time and seamlessly share files. The memory of being shackled to a single computer is long gone, and even though workforces are becoming more distributed by geography, cloud computing is helping employees work more closely with each other than ever before.