As Xero’s Victorian Accounting Firm partner of the Year the team at SMART Business Solutions LOVE Xero and everything CLOUD. So you’ve heard people talk of “cloud-based business” or “cloud computing”, but what exactly do they mean? And is “doing business in the cloud” a viable option for smaller operations? Before you’re left feeling it’s all “geek” to you, let’s define “cloud computing”. Simply put, it means your software apps and data are stored on remote Internet servers as opposed to locally on your computer’s hard drive or your company’s own server/s. Now the idea of your very valuable data not being stored in a physically known locale may sound risky. After all, who’s going to keep it secure? And prevent it from being lost or stolen? Surely it’s safer to keep your data stored on a computer or server that stays on your premises? Fact is that rationale is outdated and counter-intuitive. These days, your data is apt to be more secure stored in “the cloud” than on your computer or server. And we’re going to tell you why that is.
First off, the level of IT security you can provide is probably far less robust than that of a cloud app provider. Anytime you access the Internet, even just to send an email, you’re vulnerable to hackers. Logging onto the Internet is like opening the door to these nefarious elements who are constantly on the lookout for “a way in” to your computer or local network. In some cases, they’re so advanced they can quite literally “pick the lock”, easily circumventing the any basic security measures you may have in place, all due to the fact that you have Internet access.
On the other hand, reputable cloud-based app providers, employ more solid security measures like SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates that support advanced 256-bit encryption codes. This level of encryption is equivalent to that used by online banks. As I’m sure you can agree, this banking-grade security protocol is likely a lot more secure than the security protocols you currently have in place.
Another obvious advantage to storing your apps and data “in the cloud” is should your computer, server/s, smartphone, tablet or any other mobile device you make use of be stolen or lost, your data will not be at risk as it’s not stored on said device. It’s safely in the cloud, where it’s protected by SSL level encryption. After all, hardware can be easily replaced while data cannot. And it’s your data that’s ultimately of value.
The same advantage applies should a disaster such as flood and fire strike. Picture a worst case scenario like your business being flooded out. If you were using cloud-based computing you could “set up shop” in a new location almost immediately as long as it had Internet access. Obviously, this may not apply to operational aspects of your business, but at least you’d be able to keep the aspects of your business which depend on data – such as customer services, finances, administration, human resources and so on – on track.
A computer’s hard drive is not unlike a car’s engine. And as with any engine, it’s not a question of if, but rather when they will malfunction or breakdown altogether. Which is why being diligent about daily data backups is so important. As is taking said backups off-site. Not to mention regularly testing your backups are working as intended. Unfortunately, many small businesses fail to follow through with basic backup protocols.
The good news is that if you choose to take your business “into the cloud” scheduled data backups will no longer be necessary. Your cloud app provider automatically takes care of backups, at the same time storing your data in multiple locations around the globe. Should one of your provider’s buildings fall down in an earthquake, your data will remain secure as it’s also stored elsewhere.
Even if hardware advances to a point where hard drives are fail-proof, there’s still the issue of them eventually run out of data storage space. Which brings us to another major inconvenience with the outdated “storing data locally” approach as opposed to “in the cloud”. Someone (you or an IT provider who will want payment) has to physically take of moving the data across to new hard drives or servers as well as reinstalling the various apps and databases. It’s a costly and disruptive process.
Software – Xero & the Eco-System of Operational Add-on’s
Most small operators – once they’ve fully adapted to “doing business in the cloud” – can reach a point where a dedicated IT person is no longer needed. This means you won’t require the services of an onsite IT staffer or need to call in an IT contractor in order to maintain your databases, upgrade servers, troubleshoot software compatibility issues and so on. “How is this possible?” you may wonder. Because when you use cloud-based apps there is no software to install. And also no updates or “patches”. You simply log into your app of choice and it will automatically be updated.
Now For The Exciting News
While the advanced security and convenience offered by cloud computing are without doubt worthy of mention, they are by no means the most compelling benefits of “doing business in the cloud”. So let’s take a look at some of the really “wow” advantages cloud computing has to offer.
Being more efficient is a common business goal. Being more efficient saves you time and money. And enables you to improve your service delivery. For instance, building a cloud-based “app ecosystem” for your business can help you eliminate an issue like data being manually re-entered multiple times into multiple systems.
When you use cloud computing, data only has to be manually entered once. After which said data is able to seamlessly flow to all other cloud-based apps within your business ecosystem. Let’s face it, manual data entry is not only time-consuming and costly, but increases the opportunity for error. And adds to the overall inefficiency in your business.
Make it your aim to limit – if not eliminate – the amount of data your employees have to manually enter. And try to identify ways in which that data can automatically flow from another app in your business ecosystem where it has already been stored.
Up And Away
Migrating your business “to the cloud” begins with you picking your preferred cloud-based accounting and operational systems such as POS, inventory, project management etc. This is because your financial and customer related data is of the highest value. And once these systems are set, they’ll be able to automatically send data to – and receive it from – other operational areas.
The cloud systems you choose will be determined by the nature of your business as well as which apps you’re currently using. Developing an app ecosystem that’s compatible with your operation or enterprise is, of course, very important and one of the key aspects to focus on when it comes to “doing business in the cloud”.
Is Cloud right for everyone?
The one instance in which cloud computing is not a viable option for your business, is if you’re based in an area with a lower quality Internet service. If you’re looking to take your business “into the cloud”, you need a reliable, high-speed Internet connection, so hopefully if you don’t have that now, the NBN won’t be too far away.
Want to learn more about moving your business “into the cloud”? Contact SMART Business Solutions today to set up an appointment and discover how cloud computing can make your business more competitive.
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