For the past year, I have been experimenting quite successfully in running my business through the cloud. I am no techie and this was not a planned model initially. However, I was clear that I needed to enable a flexible working environment for my team and ensure that my capital expenditure stays as close to zero as possible in the early stages. I had tried out tools like Box, Dropbox, Evernote and Skype for my personal use and loved the flexibility and ease-of-use they provided. So, it was a natural leap for me to integrate them into my business as well. And now that the business is growing, I went to my go-to-person for all things technical for advice on an IT plan and investments needed (I still don’t own a single server and that “felt” kind of uncomfortable when I remembered the huge server rooms at the businesses I have worked in). Turns out that I have actually been doing it right and have been part of a trend that is the new normal :) . After I finished my feel-good pat-my-own-back session, I requested Shashwat, my go-to person, techie geek turned cloud solutions SME to write down what he told me in the form of a blog post so that I can share this with everyone. Here is his take on how cloud computing is not just for the biggies but is also a boon for startups and small businesses.

Cloud Computing for Small Business and StartUps

Software as a service (SaaS) has been around since the 60s, when IBM and other mainframe providers introduced the concept of time-shared computing. ISVs would host their code on remote servers providing functionality to enterprises on a subscription basis. With the advent of the internet and its increased adoption in the 90s, it gave way to a more efficient and ever-present way of computing, popularly known as cloud computing.

With higher internet speeds at reduced costs, cloud computing can be a boon for your start-up. Here’s why –

1)   Productivity on the go – Productivity has been revolutionized with the arrival of personal devices. The information worker has gone desk-less and enterprise IT has been consumerized. With the Bring-your-own-device culture gaining popularity in major conglomerates, it only makes sense for startups enable their workforce with such power. With cloud storage and cloud apps, the information worker can be more agile and help the startup be nimble. There are multiple platforms/vendors to choose from, to suit your organizational needs. From software development to basic word processing, all workloads can be hosted in the cloud. And with unlimited storage options, all you projects/files are omnipresent – all the time.

2)   Reduced capital and operational costs – The world’s best companies started in a garage, and not with a lot of money. Investing in a resilient IT infrastructure might not be an option available to every aspiring startup. The costs of deploying and maintaining an IT backbone, could be an expensive deal even for a small startup. For many, investing the money to the business would make more sense. The cloud helps you run your IT, without having to worry about maintaining or upgrading it – You will always have the latest and greatest. Thick clients are a thing of the past now, thus helping you reduce the need for expensive end user computing. Effectively, all you need is a browser J

3)   À la carte Computing – Efficient use of IT hardware is always a concern for enterprises. You don’t want to under-size the environment to save cost and run into performance issues, OR invest a lot of money to buy real beefy hardware and have them sit underutilized. With fast growing organizations, scalability becomes a constant issue and a drain on your finances. Enter – CLOUD – you use what you pay for, you pay for what you use. The user-feature based licensing model, helps companies to pick and choose what they want to use, without having to worry about hardware costs. Scalability??? Not a problem, you can scale your user base on the fly with a few clicks of the mouse.

 4)   Boosted Collaboration – Audio/video conferencing, file sharing and web apps – 90% of my workday is spent on these workloads. With teams becoming more virtual now, geo locations cannot be a hindrance to productivity. Efficient use of the cloud tools ensures that people collaborate successfully. You never have to email a single project file back and forth. Multiple people can consume and work on the same data from different locations simultaneously. Business intelligence and reporting has been simplified to a few clicks.

 5)   Increased continuity of service – “The cloud is always on” – You can get to it from anywhere, anytime. Businesses spend a lot of money to ensure that their systems are resilient and highly available, increasing the overall complexity of the environment, with constantly increasing operational costs. A subscription based model eliminates the need for a business to plan for unplanned service interruptions. You pay a one-time subscription fee, the vendor takes care of everything else. Many cloud vendors out there also offer financially backed service level agreements for mission critical workloads, so you can concentrate on your business worry free.

So, there you go – Cloud solutions enable you to concentrate on your business and run IT, quite practically with a credit card. :)

Cloud Tools/Solutions for your reference:

Cloud storage:

Onedrive for business – https://onedrive.live.com/about/en-us/business/

Box.Net for business – https://www.box.com/business/

Google drive – https://drive.google.com/ob?usp=web_ww_intro

Business email and productivity:

Microsoft Office 365 for small business – http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/business/compare-office-365-for-business-plans-FX102918419.aspx?tab=1

Google apps for business – http://www.google.com/enterprise/apps/business/

Unified collaboration:

Skype for business – http://www.skype.com/en/business/

Microsoft Lync online – http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/lync/meeting-software-compare-lync-plans-FX103842081.aspx

Google hangout – http://www.google.com/+/learnmore/hangouts/

Social for the enterprise:

Yammer – www.yammer.com

Chatter – https://www.salesforce.com/chatter/overview/

Today’s post is by Shashwat Mohapatra. Sash is a Client Success Manager and has about 10 years’ experience working as a trusted advisor with large Fortune 500 enterprise organizations in various business verticals around the globe, focused on helping enterprise customers consistently improve IT health, drive successful projects and migration deployments.

Did you find this post useful? How have you used cloud for your business? We would love to hear back and learn from you.

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