SCORE Small Business Blog

Critical Technology Strategy Every Business Needs to Consider: Doing Business In the Cloud
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I know, everyone wants a cloud. That’s so sexy nowadays.

But most people couldn’t even tell you if they have a cloud – or where it lives or what it really means for their business.

Basically, moving into the cloud means you are freeing yourself of hardware that you have to manage. The business model changes too – instead of buying servers and IT guys, you are paying (usually as a subscription based service) to rent space on someone else’s server that you can access without the trapping of wires, cables, fibers. You access it pretty much through the air – virtually.

red phoneIt’s not much different from when we freed ourselves from corded landline phones. You no longer needed wires in your house to connect to your phone hardware so you can make a phone call.

It’s not so bizarre when you think about it that way.

Many things change for your business when you begin using cloud based solutions. For one, you access it differently – you can use almost any device, anywhere, and still get to your cloud. Two, you pay for it differently – you budget a monthly expenditure for subscription instead of a big capital expenditure to buy a license and equipment. Third, your risks are different. I outlined this in a presentation to the Pennsylvania Bar Association. Lastly, the quality and quantity of software on your cloud access machine (your computer) reduces and becomes cheaper. Need something advanced? Go lease it in the cloud. Hate it? Cancel it.

To introduce the cloud into your business, consider these critical cloud uses and the technology that can help you:

Backup | Collaboration | Tools

Backup in the Cloud

When is the last time you backed up your computer? Better yet, when is the last time you backed up your 2400 irreplaceable pictures on that 32GB iphone?

For less than $10 a month, you can automatically, easily and painlessly back up all of your devices into the cloud. The anxiety relief that comes with one of these services is well worth the price. I could launch my laptop off the empire state building, go walk into an internet café, login and continue business as usual. Yes, you should do this today.

ZipCloud, like most of their competitors, requires both a download onto the machine that needs to be backed up as well as a credit card for the subscription. They offer standard encryption as well as syncing in the background while you are working on the computer or while it is idle. This can slow down your internet connection so I recommend you get into the habit of leaving your computer on when not in use so that the backup happens while you are doing something else. Similar: JustCloud, Carbonite  and mozy

Interested in backing up your social media sites? This is critical if you are in any compliance based industry and desirable to most others. I have found Social Safe  to be a nifty little tool for that purpose.

Collaboration in the Cloud

No one sends CDs/DVDs around anymore. No one really uses USB drives either. So please stop assuring me the iPad would be so much better with a USB port. Today, people do their filesharing in the cloud.

If you’ve ever worked in a corporate environment and had a “shared drive” it works exactly the same way.

Dropbox is hard not to love. It is one of the simplest pieces of software to use. Download and install it on your computer and then drag the files you want to share into the new dropbox folder. Download the app on your mobile devices. Acexcited child with laptopcess it on the web anytime at the dropbox link. They give out free account with 2GB storage so it’s easy for others to get the files from you. For example, I videoed our company meeting on my phone, upload it via the app and it lives on my collaboration cloud where my marketing team can go in, look at it, change it or download it – while I’m still at the meeting! The only caution I would give you in a dropbox sharing frenzy is that the security level of this folder is not appropriate for you to use it to store sensitive information.

Similar: Box.com or You Send It

Tools to Make Your Cloud Journey More Enjoyable

Two of the main hurdles to sharing and archiving is software versioning (what if it’s obsolete?) and eliminating the need for paper altogether (I have to print it out to sign it?). Adobe solves these problems for you and they are good to have in your cloud toolkit.

Echosign is a web-based, fully digital electronic signature solution. There’s nothing to learn or install. Simply click “Send” for an online signature that complies with all legal standards, accepts documents in a variety of formats and attaches a digital signature to secure electronic documents.

Adobe Acrobat Professional makes my top five secret weapons of all time list. It makes PDFs (Portable Document Format) for you, but it also allows you to edit them, compress them, merge them together, add layers of security, create fillable forms, and aggregate information automatically. The site has tons of case studies to give you some inspiration. Yes, it’s worth the investment.

Want to make your life easier in your business? Free yourself from hardware and reduce some of your risk of information loss by moving your files into the cloud. Like any business change, it will feel strange at first, but the benefits of being truly mobile will be most appreciated in a time of crisis. Plus, then you can tell people YOU are doing business in the cloud. Sexy, huh?

Amy LarrimoreCEO and Chief Strategist, Empire Builders Group
Amy consults businesses in combining their information with a good piece of operational technology to power efficient humans. She is a certified SCORE business mentor with the Philadelphia chapter and serves as a SCORE volunteer District VP of Information Systems and Technology.
www.empirebuilders.biz | SCORE Mentors | @AmyAllStar | More from Amy

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Discussion (4) Comment


  1. Amy LarrimoreVisitor

    Corey, Monte and Mike – great case studies/suggestions. I try to keep a running list of software I’ve vetted and like here: http://amylarrimore.com/technologyportfolio/ so I’m always grateful to hear about new solutions!


  2. CoreyVisitor

    Don’t forget about having an army of IT support at your fingertips. We use adobe echosign to help us maintain our zero paper use policy. It works great.

    We also support dropbox and box. Both excellent platforms designed to be very user friendly. In my opinion the biggest advantage to cloud based backup solutions is that if your house burns down, all your important files are not only safe but can be accessed anywhere in the world that has internet.


  3. Monte FultonVisitor

    Great article, Amy! We love Box and are using it to store client folders that our mystery shoppers can easily upload large audio and video files to.


  4. MikeVisitor

    I admit that I was that guy who used to carry a USB drive with me everywhere, or email myself all my papers in college so I could always access them. That plan didn’t translate to the business world very well when I started my own business. I was surprised to find so many small business backup companies. I used InsideUp, which is a resource I recommend to anyone with an SME, to compare service providers. However, for free storage in my personal life I do like Dropbox. Here’s the link I used. http://www.insideup.com/compare/small_business_backup

 

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