Decades ago, when computers were made, only big corporations could use these magical devices that made complex tasks easier. They needed a lot of space, and large halls with cooling systems were dedicated to the processing units.
The world has come a long way, and almost everyone owns a computer. As a business owner, you might need more sophisticated computing resources to seamlessly meet your customers’ needs. This almost takes business owners back to the 60’s when computers were in their early phase. Thankfully, we have cloud computing, which means anyone can access fast, high-power computing resources for less.
In this article, you’ll find out the uses and benefits of cloud computing for small business owners.
Table of Contents
What is Cloud Computing?
Today, when we think of computers, we picture beautiful designs, easy-to-understand user interfaces, colours everywhere, interesting apps, video players etc.
But all that is just the surface.
What is Computing?
Wordweb Dictionary defines computing as the “procedure of calculating; determining something by mathematical or logical methods.”
Computers are calculating devices. What you see on a computer screen results from the calculations done by underlying computing processes translated to an understandable output (sound, colour, picture, video, etc).
Although technological advancement has made it possible to compress computing devices into portable formats, enabling the manufacture of laptops and other handheld devices like our smartphones, these devices are somewhat limited in their capacity to carry out high-level computations, process many requests simultaneously or store large data.
If you’ve used your smartphone or laptop for long, you must have noticed that, at one point, it became slow or was unable to run some applications. This usually occurs when your storage is full or you try to run tasks or applications beyond your computer’s processing power.
New apps are made every day, collecting more data. The more sophisticated they are, the more computing power you’ll need. This can threaten small business owners as they try to satisfy their customers because speed is an important factor in today’s world. People want their orders ASAP. They need the customer service reps to respond ASAP. They want websites to load ASAP. A delay of a few seconds can incur losses.
Thankfully, there is cloud computing for small business owners who can’t afford sophisticated computing hardware. They can run a cloud-based business smoothly and compete with the big fishes in their industry.
Cloud computing explained
Cloud computing means that the computing is done at a remote location. That is, the user doesn’t have the hardware required in his physical location but instead uses the computing resources of a service provider over the internet. It handles tasks that require intense computing resources like storing large data, processing multiple requests simultaneously, and running sophisticated applications.
Take Google Drive for example. It helps you store your data over the internet, and you don’t need a hard disk.
How does cloud computing for small businesses work?
Cloud computing service providers like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and IBM Cloud Services build data centers with hardware dedicated to serving various businesses that lack the resources to build and maintain their computing needs. These fast, high-power, high-intensity resources exist on a pay-as-you-go or subscription basis over the Internet without investing huge capital, time and human resources.
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Types of Cloud Computing Services
There are broadly 3 types/models of cloud computing for small businesses. IaaS, PaaS and SaaS.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
In this model, the vendor provides computing resources such as storage, servers, network and virtualisation.
That means this service frees users from the stress and cost of maintaining an on-premises data centre. The IaaS provider hosts these resources in either the public cloud (meaning users share the same hardware, storage, and network devices with other users), the private cloud (meaning users do not share these resources), or the hybrid cloud (a combination of both).
Platform as a service (PaaS)
Platform as a service (PaaS) is a model of cloud computing services that allows customers to provision, instantiate, run, and manage a bundle of computing platforms and one or more applications. It skips the complexity of building and maintaining the typical infrastructure associated with developing and launching the application(s) while allowing developers to create, develop, and package such software bundles.
It is also known as application platform as a service (aPaaS) or platform-based service.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
Software as a service (SaaS) is a model of cloud computing in which software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted.
Popular examples of SaaS models include Zoom, Slack, Shopify and Salesforce. It is also known as on-demand software, web-based software, or web-hosted software.
Benefits of Cloud Computing for Small Businesses
“The lockdowns throughout the pandemic showed companies how important it was to be able to access their computing infrastructure, applications and data from wherever their staff were working – and not just from an office.” – zdnet.com
If you were to set up an effective computing system on-premises, you’d have to invest heavily in high-power hardware for data storage and networking. You’d also have to pay for installation and connection to all the workstations that would need it.
Further, you’d worry about power supply to keep it running, especially here in Nigeria where we do not have a reliable power supply, and the price of petrol/diesel is high. Then, you’d have to consider maintenance and security costs.
The list of expenditures is endless. But with cloud computing, the service provider takes the hardware cost, stress, maintenance, networking, power supply, and security off you.
You spend less, paying for the most relevant computing resources.
Say you finally decide to invest in on-premises data centre and computing resources. You might have to order the hardware and other equipment from a different city, the installation would also take some time, and you might have to train staff members who’ll be in charge of your data centre and computing resources.
Using cloud computing for small businesses reduces delay as you can set up and deploy your system in hours or, at most, a few days.
With on-premises computing and data centres, businesses sometimes buy hardware they don’t need because what they require isn’t sold separately but as a package.
That means you end up maintaining the excess computing power without putting it to good use.
Resources from cloud computing for small businesses help you avoid these inefficiencies and only pay for what you use. No extra maintenance costs.
With the existing models of cloud computing for small businesses, you can easily adjust your business to meet demands at any given time. When you’re flooded with customer requests and have a lot to process simultaneously, you can scale up by paying for more computing and data storage resources as the situation requires. Likewise, when you’re receiving fewer orders and have fewer requests to process, you can scale down.
Again, you only pay for what you need.
Running your own data centre and computing doesn’t give you that luxury, as you’d have to spend more whenever you want to scale up. You’ll also be stuck with inefficient systems and excess computing resources, incurring extra maintenance costs when you have less to process.
If you run your own data centre, you’re responsible for backing it up and ensuring your data is safe. If your storage system crashes without backup, you risk losing all your data.
With cloud computing, you have no fears about data loss because the service providers help you store and backup your data.
They ensure user data, especially sensitive ones like financial and health data, is safe and inaccessible to unauthorized persons.
The COVID-19 pandemic reshaped the way businesses run. It highlighted the importance of remote access to workstations, tools, data centres and other computing resources.
With cloud computing for small businesses, you don’t need a physical location. Your entire business process can be run from anywhere, anytime, by you and your team members with access to the needed resources.
Whether you’re taking orders, sending shipments, delivering services or managing customer queries, cloud computing can help you run all these seamlessly.
24/7 service delivery
This is one benefit of cloud-based businesses. Since the service provider, a third party, provides and runs most of the core infrastructure, business owners can focus on meeting the needs of their customers, hiring team members, and automating service delivery to ensure customers are always satisfied.
Nobody needs to go to an office, turn on a switch or worry about power supply. With proper automation, your business can run while you sleep.
Users of the SaaS model of cloud computing for small businesses don’t have to worry about regularly updating their software manually, as the SaaS provider automatically handles it.
Further, cloud service providers are at the forefront of technological advancement. IaaS and PaaS users can rest assured they’ll have access to the latest technologies for faster and more sophisticated computing processes.
If you were to run your own data centre and computing hardware, you’d have to make the updates yourself and purchase the latest hardware for more effective processes.
This is especially important for start-ups. As a small business owner, efficiency is key.
The aim is to produce maximum results with minimal resources. Cloud computing reduces the number of people you’d need to run your small business effectively.
Public vs Private vs Hybrid Cloud Computing
In public cloud computing, resources are shared by many users, while private cloud computing dedicates resources to a particular user.
Some business owners may decide to combine public and private cloud computing services, hence the hybrid cloud computing.
The Future of Cloud Computing
Adopting cloud computing for small businesses is on the rise. Even big corporations that have invested heavily in on-premise data and computing centres are moving towards cloud computing either by building their own cloud resources or subscribing to the ones already available.
According to Gartner, a tech analyst, up to half of expenses on application software, infrastructure software, system infrastructure and business process services will have shifted to the cloud by 2025. In keeping with predictions by other industry experts, it is expected to grow over the coming years, ultimately taking a larger share of compute and storage infrastructure spending.
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Cloud computing is a great innovation that empowers small business owners with the resources needed to run their businesses effectively without heavy investment. It removes the stress and worry of maintenance costs that go into running a personal data centre and enables users to only pay for what they use.
Apart from saving costs, it has other benefits that small businesses can take advantage of, helping them compete against the big players in their industry and the global business landscape.
Edited by Halimat Chisom.
- Tari is an SEO Specialist and Content Writer. A final year medical student interested in health technology.
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