Cloud computing is one of the tech buzzwords of our time, yet its meaning and use is unknown to many small business owners. Here’s a beginner’s guide to cloud computing for SMEs.
The technology world advances tremendously on a daily basis. To think that we’ve moved from computers that filled up entire rooms to small, handheld devices that anticipate our every need is quite extraordinary.
If you take a look beneath the surface of all the excitement though, you might notice an interesting subtlety.
Within all the nuances, there is a very simple common thread: efficiency.
At its core, technology is a tool that is being used to make the world a more efficient place.
And, one of the biggest game changers in achieving this ever-evolving goal, has been the rise of cloud computing.
There is no denying it. Cloud computing is a complex concept that many people have devoted their entire lives to further exploring, understanding and expanding on.
But, like with most things, there is a watered-down explanation that can help the average layperson wrap their brain around what it actually is.
Cloud computing is just another way of saying internet computing. It essentially refers to the idea of storing large amount of data on the internet, instead of on physical and local servers.
In addition to data storage, since the idea of cloud computing is all about endless amount of space, it can be leveraged to deeply analyse and deploy this data in very large and complex environments, all within a matter of microseconds.
Instead of relying on physical servers to store important information, cloud computing allows people and businesses to access and utilise their data efficiently, in a very cost-effective fashion.
Now that we’ve got somewhat of an understanding as to what cloud computing actually is, let’s turn our heads towards how small business owners can integrate cloud computing into their companies, and the benefits they stand to enjoy through doing so.
One of the ways that cloud computing is practically implemented into business offerings is through the use of software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions. SaaS solutions use all the benefits of cloud computing in order to offer high-quality tech-driven services to individuals and businesses.
When small businesses implement SaaS solutions into their operations, they don’t need to worry about things like integration, set up costs or challenges that relate to storage bandwidth.
For example, if you have a Dropbox account or have signed up for MYOB Essentials, then you’re already using cloud-based solutions in your business.
The use of SaaS solutions allows the businesses to leverage off the cloud resources, technological expertise and software intelligence of the service provider, making it easier for the business owner to focus their efforts on building their business.
For instance, businesses that sell physical stock and need a dependable way to manage, can rely on a cloud-based inventory management system SaaS solution. This replaces the need to develop bespoke database systems, a process which can be challenging (and expensive) to do.
While people might use money to purchase their goods or services, data is the true currency of business today, and cloud computing is all about keeping that data organised.
In order to keep up with the pace of today’s service economy, gathering high-quality data and keeping it organised is crucial.
If a business uses cloud computing for their data storage and organisation, they will be able to take a pre-emptive and proactive approach to their customer service, rather than chasing after their customers in a reactive fashion.
A great example how significant organised data actually is can be taken from Australian e-commerce mammoth Kogan.com’s acquisition of Dick Smith Electronics in 2016.
When going through the acquisition, Kogan.com made it very clear that it wasn’t after any physical stock. It was Dick Smith’s data and IP that had caught their attention.
Dick Smith had decades worth of organised data with customer information, as well as the trends and patterns associated with purchasing electronics in Australia.
Kogan.com understood the value of this data, and after purchasing it, used it to grow and enhance their own customer databases.
If you take a look at where Kogan.com is today (three years later), the results of organised data speak for themselves.
If you take a look back at how businesses operated before cloud computing, there was plenty of data floating around, but little-to-no technology available to harness it.
Today, thanks to SaaS and cloud computing, there are endless tech solutions that are being designed to improve the efficiency and accuracy of data aggregation.
In fact it’s almost as if there is a disconnect between the capabilities of available technologies, and the knowledge surrounding their uses.
This being the case, the future of cloud computing is going to be all about enabling people to learn and adapt to the available technologies.
Eventually, the age of cloud computing will lead to a total alignment between people, data, and technology.