These days, “the cloud” and “cloud computing” are among the most widely used business buzzwords. There are still many who are a little unclear about what cloud computing actually is – but with a growing number of cloud-based applications becoming available to small businesses, a basic understanding of what the cloud offers is a must for any business owner.
What exactly is cloud computing?
Simply put, cloud computing is the latest phase in the evolution of the internet. It enables computing infrastructure, applications and business processes to be delivered to you as a service whenever and wherever you need them. You’ll often hear the word cloud used in conjunction with services. Cloud-based services can include the delivery of storage for your files, software, collaboration tools and even your business communications system.
What are the benefits?
Cloud computing eliminates many of the constraints that small business owners experience with traditional computing environments – namely space, power, cost and time. The cloud provides internet-based computing solutions with shared resources – not unlike how electricity is distributed on the electrical grid. For small business owners specifically, this shift means:
More accessibility – Applications that were once only available to large-scale enterprises are now available to small businesses through the cloud.
Reduced costs for end-users – By only having to pay for services used, and by eliminating the need for personnel to install and maintain hardware and software, cloud computing can significantly reduce both capital and operating expenses.
Scalability – Cloud computing enables scaling either up or down, without the long-term commitment of purchasing equipment or software.
What are some of the most popular types of cloud-based applications for small businesses?
CRM – Customer relationship management solutions, such as Salesforce, have let small businesses manage their sales pipelines just as large companies do. By providing centralized dashboards, online database management and a host of other tools to track and manage sales, cloud-based CRM applications are helping businesses cultivate and maintain customer relationships in many new ways.
Virtual Phone/Fax – Without the need for hardware or software to buy and maintain, a cloud-based phone system such as RingCentral Office can significantly lower costs while also delivering more robust features to improve productivity and professionalism.
Online Backup – There’s no longer any need to back up and save files on discs. Cloud storage service providers enable users to share, manage and access files and folders in a secure online environment.
Collaboration – With many small business working with remote team members, cloud-based collaboration tools such as Basecamp and Dropbox let users discuss, update, upload, download and share documents, images and projects – all from a single location.
Accounting/Bookkeeping – Keeping up with income, expenses, profits, losses and tax obligations can be particularly challenging for a small business owner. However, with well-known programs like Quickbooks now available as cloud-based applications, bookkeeping and accounting functions are much easier to manage.
At RingCentral this month, we’ll be featuring a number of cloud-related blog posts. If you would like to learn more about trends, news and tips pertaining to the cloud, we encourage you to stay tuned. And for up-to-the-minute news from RingCentral, the No. 1 cloud-based phone system for your business, make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Originally published May 10, 2011, updated May 23, 2021