What does moving to the cloud offer your small business?
Visitors walk under the word 'Cloud' at the IBM booth at the CeBIT computing trade fair in Hanover, Germany.
Q: All you seem to hear these days is that small business should move to the cloud and embrace the “digital revolution.” But I have a decidedly analog business – a retail store literally on Main street – so I am wondering what really is in it for me. Explain to me please what I am missing. – Deborah
A: Let’s start with this sad little anecdote:
Last week, I spilled a glass of water on my laptop and fried my computer.
A stupid, expensive mistake to be sure, but also one from which I recovered fairly easily because long ago I had learned my lesson (the hard way) and had moved my business to the cloud. I had a backup of my hard-drive that had been updated remotely only the day before and my apps were all online too.
So I survived. Especially when compared to a decade ago when something similar happened and I lost two chapters of a book I was writing (sad writer, mad editor). While this was not a fun week, it was not a devastating one either.
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Being able to keep your business running in the face of a man-made calamity (theft, vandalism, being a klutz) or natural disaster (floods, fire, earthquake) is the first of many reasons to move to the cloud.
Another, and probably more important reason, is that it is simply how business is done these days. If you want to compete, indeed if you want to succeed and excel, adopting some of the powerful, designed-specifically-for-small-business cloud-based tools available today is the smart way to go.
Last week I had the opportunity to speak with some small business folks who get it.
Garner Foods is almost 100 years old and started out making barbecue sauce. These days they are most well-known for their Texas Pete Hot Sauce. With 116 employees deployed in various offices and continents, Garner’s CEO, CFO and IT team explained to me why they decided to jump on board the digital train and move their business to the cloud, specifically using Microsoft's new 365 Business suite of tools (note, I have done some work with Microsoft.)
Garner told me that they chose to go with Microsoft as their provider because they offered solutions to the issues they faced, and as it so happens, these dovetail as the same reasons any small business should seriously consider embracing the digital revolution:
Mobility: As explained to me by Microsoft’s GM of Office 365 Catherine Boeger, small businesses today are “more transient. More time is spent away from the office and desktop, and they need to access their documents and data anywhere.”
She explained that Microsoft’s new suite was designed specifically for today’s mobile small business workforce.
Employees today expect to be able to work when and where they want, and that can only happen if your business is in the cloud.
Security: Check out this alarming stat Ms. Boeger shared with me: 72% of all cyber threats now are aimed at small business. Embracing new digital solutions that integrate security means that your business will be safe in the face of this ever-growing threat.
Collaboration: This new generation of IT tools allows your team to work remotely, but together, and securely.
Example: One big trend in business of course is the advent of BYOD – Bring your Own Device. Employees are accessing work documents and data on their own phones, tablets and other devices.
But what happens if their phone gets stolen? Or their tablet hacked? Your business could be in serious jeopardy. One of the things I really like about the new tools Microsoft demonstrated for me was the ability for the small business owner or IT manager to remotely secure and even encrypt company data on remote devices.
In the case of Garner Foods, embracing these changes means that they have been able to “spend more time working on our business and growing it and far less time on technology.”
And that’s what you want too, right? The paradox of today is that if you find, embrace, and execute the right digital and cloud solutions, you actually should spend less time thinking and worrying about your technology.
And definitely less time re-writing those lost chapters of your book.
Steve Strauss, @Steve Strauss on Twitter, is a lawyer specializing in small business and entrepreneurship and has been writing for USATODAY.com for 20 years. E-mail: [email protected] You can learn more about Steve at MrAllBiz.
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