Cloud computing represents a fundamental change in the way consumers and businesses are using their computers and mobile devices, and it is a trend that small businesses cannot afford to overlook. “Cloud” is just another name for the Internet, and thus cloud computing really refers to any services and applications that are hosted and accessed via the web.  In the software world, this is also commonly referred to as Software-as-a-Service or SaaS. 

Cloud computing allows small businesses to remotely manage and store information, and access software or services from virtually any device with Internet access.  Small businesses can also use cloud computing technology to boost their storage capacity via online storage services and create online backup and archiving accounts.

Cloud computing allows small businesses to save on expensive hardware, software, and maintenance costs since data and applications are being held on remote servers. Users can access their business services and applications through almost any device with an Internet connection including laptops, mobile phones, and PDA’s. It is also easy to add new users to the system when you need them.

As more and more software developers are offering “cloud” versions of their products, we wanted to breakdown pros and cons of cloud computing:

  • Reduced Capital Expense – You have no upfront capital expense for software, hardware, operating systems or terminal servers.
  • Budgeted System Maintenance – Your SaaS provider does the backup, schedules maintenance on the equipment and databases and covers hardware failures.
  • Change User Numbers – SaaS contracts generally allow you to change your user count up or down every month as your needs change.
  • Adjust Hardware as Your Needs Change – Your SaaS can provide you more (or less) computing power as your requirements change.  You don’thave to buy bigger servers than you need or replace them as your needs grow.
  • Deployment Flexibility – Receive the benefits of a hosted, on-demand solution with the option of migrating to an on-premise deployment at any time should your needs change.  If you already own an on-premise deployment of a program, you can usually seamlessly migrate to the cloud edition.
  • Customization Flexibility – Some cloud software versions will still allow customizations to meet your unique processes and take advantage of industry-specific versions – but this is currently more of an exception in SaaS offerings.
  • Buying Flexibility – Some SaaS offerings allow you to purchase a perpetual license or a subscription, which allows you to pick the purchasing manner that best fits your needs and financial goals.
  • Rent versus Own – You are generally buying service, not software.  There is generally no credit for past payments if you decide to purchase the software.
  • Data Ownership – The ability to retain ownership of all your data and processes is actually somewhat rare in the SaaS world, so ask who owns your data.
  •  Implementation Services – While the software and hardware costs are month to month, or year to year, the monthly cost does not include the implementation services.

Cloud computing may sound too good to be true for your businesses, and depending on your situation, it may be.  There is no one right answer.  However, many businesses can benefit from cloud computing.  Download our comparison chart to help determine the right solution for your business.