As a small business, it’s important to understand the various productivity tools at your disposal. As technology advances further, and apps take over even more of your business’s workflow, cloud computing is on the rise. With cloud computing, a network of remote servers runs your software and handles storage – much of what used to happen on your own hard drive is now happening remotely. There are many benefits it can provide to your business, but there are also a few things you need to take into account. Let’s take a deeper look.
Why You Should Consider Cloud-Based Options
Inexpensive and Accessible Storage
One of our favorite uses for cloud computing (aka “The Cloud”) is storage. It’s usually much cheaper to purchase cloud storage space than it is to set up in-house servers/storage, and typically comes with free tech support. While we at Sharp Point absolutely depend on our awesome IT guy, reducing our need for complex network setup means more dollars stay in our bank account. Cloud storage allows for employees to access data from a variety of devices and places, making it easier to do business on the go. It also allows for easy backup of files, and can help you quickly get your electronic documents stored in one central location. Invest in a multi-page scanner and you can start migrating your paper documents to The Cloud as well. Some solutions to consider include Google Drive, DropBox, and SmartVault.
Seamless Software Updates = Saved Time and Money
Many software companies have released cloud versions of some of their popular programs. These are often less expensive to purchase than the desktop version, and come with some of the benefits we just discussed under cloud storage. Since they are not actually installed on your computer, they do not take up hard drive space, nor do they affect the speed of your computer. Users of cloud-based software programs appreciate saving time and money by not having to purchase new versions or install updates. Programs such as QuickBooks Online and Microsoft Office Suite are available in this manner.
Easy Collaboration Amongst Team Members
The Cloud is perfect for collaborative projects. It can give everyone on your team the ability to work with the same master document, rather than having to manage multiple drafts of a document. Changes are made available to everyone in real-time, and with many programs, different users can edit the same document at the same time. This is great for teamwork, and can really increase the efficiency of your business. My favorite collaborative tool is OneNote, where we can brainstorm ideas, lists and research, all in a format that mirrors the way my brain organizes information.
What to Consider Before Moving to The Cloud
The Issue of Security
One of the main concerns business owners have about cloud computing is security. Certain contenders in cloud computing put security at a high priority, and are serious about built-in encryption and preventing data breaches. Other providers have come under scrutiny for scanning their users’ stored documents. When looking into your options, make sure to consider the level of confidentiality you need. Documents containing sensitive financial information or social security numbers, for example, call for serious confidentiality. Some providers, such as SmartVault, SpiderOak, and Citrix ShareFile offer extra layers of security and are a better choice for this type of data storage.
Plan for a Temporary Learning Curve
When introducing cloud computing to less tech-savvy users, keep in mind there will be a bit of learning curve. Most cloud software has a generally friendly user interface, but a bit of additional training will be required. Be careful of too many tech changes all at once, or changing your selected applications too frequently. You don’t want your team members suffering from “change fatigue.” Learning new skills takes focus and energy and you don’t want to burn out your staff, or yourself.
If you start utilizing multiple cloud services to handle all your business needs, things can get fragmented quickly. Make sure to streamline your workflow as much as possible, and that your different technologies work together efficiently. Timekeeping services such as Harvest now have built in connectivity to QuickBooks, and payroll services such as ADP can export payroll entries directly into QuickBooks as well. The less work you have to do manually, the better.
It’s almost always to your advantage to explore the different options open to you as a business owner, and cloud computing is a quickly evolving solution that can streamline and speed up your business processes. Cloud services are offered by big companies, such as Google, Microsoft, and Intuit, as well as by many smaller start-up tech companies, so do a bit of research to see what services best match your business’s needs. We’re happy to talk with our clients about options that might be best for them, especially when it comes to cloud-based bookkeeping solutions.
Please tweet us @SharpPointBooks and let us know what cloud-based tools you love for your business!