What is the Cloud (And How It Can Help You Be More Productive and Organized)
Today I wanted to focus on a specific way to make small business owners more productive. Yes, it’s true there are entire categories of software and gadgets for ‘productivity’.
But too often the complexity of the software and the gadgets ends up making my time vaporize, instead of helping me to SAVE time. (which was the entire point, right?) Cloud tools can eliminate the perpetual need for new gadgets and hardware.
What is the cloud?
A few decades ago, file transfer usually meant copying files to magnetic tape and physically carrying it to another computer, server or system.
And back ups of important files? Well, this has always been critically important in the world of business, whether you are IBM or a one-person business.
File storage and file backups used to mean physical boxes of files, computer discs, redundant servers…and yes, a dedicated staff member (or numerous staff members) to see that it got done.
This meant that it was slow, labor intensive and prone to human error. (and not to mention — boring — which means that if you are like me, you put off these types of tasks far too long)
And now — cloud storage.
Simply put, cloud storage is virtual storage. A customer – anyone from a large to small organization or even a single user – subscribes with a cloud storage provider.
The storage vendor gives the customer tools for creating and accessing data files that reside on the cloud and ensures that enough physical storage space is available to meet the collective needs of all of the vendor’s customers.
The customer is unaware of where in the cloud available storage or previously created files reside, as when a cell phone user sends or receives a call or text message and neither knows or cares what tower is involved in handling the communication. The storage cloud may not reside at a single location or even on drives owned by the cloud storage provider.
The important thing is that you can access your files and data from virtually anywhere at any time, as long as you have an internet connection. (and this also means smart phones)
Some cloud storage can be set to automatically perform backups for you. Others are set up so that you must physically drag and drop items into your virtual cloud filing cabinet.
You might be thinking that this sounds expensive or ‘techie’. Actually, cloud storage plans are commonly available for about $20/monthly. If your storage needs are very limited, the cost is even less. And, the tools and software is actually quite simple to use.
Recommended Cloud Tools For Small Business (free trials available)
Cloud Storage Benefits?
- More time to focus on your core business — and trust the information technology concerns to professionals.
- Accessibility – data can be accessed via the Internet from many locations and using a desktop, laptop, ipad, or smart phone.
- Cost – the costs of physical storage and infrastructure are spread throughout the community of customers, making the cost very reasonable.
- Scalability – the customer’s storage needs can grow without worrying about physical limitations. Need more space? No need to purchase an extra server or computer hard drive. Just upgrade your storage plan.
- Protection that is cost effective– even small users can take advantage of services such as replication or off-site disaster backup.
- Portability –no need for you to spend money on hardware, such as extra hard drives and USB drives that are easily misplaced. Cloud storage files are always available when you need them, through a simple desktop tool or desktop icon.
Customers may opt for a hybrid storage strategy of a cloud combined with one or more local drives. On one end of that spectrum, the cloud is used only as a backup device, while at the other extreme, cloud storage can be used for real time data bases, business accounting functions and more. It’s your choice.