Small businesses have always struggled with start-up capital and investments. But things are different today than they were 20 years ago. Modern businesses need to take on a whole host of physical and digital systems in order to compete now that the vast majority of their competitors are online.
In just a few seconds, it’s easy to list off some of these investments:
- Phone systems
- Payroll services
- Computer hardware & software
… and that list can go on and on.
The game has changed compared to business of yesteryear that gained their foothold by setting up shop, advertising in the paper, and gaining recognition through word-of-mouth. The business environment of today is ruthless and those start-up costs can halt the growth of the business before they ever truly get to reach profitability.
Luckily… we have the cloud.
The cloud is just a buzz word for services that are available on the Web (more or less), so when you think of “cloud computing” just think that there is still hardware doing the labor but accessing the information can be done from your browser or an app.
Cloud computing may seem daunting to those still fiddling with basic hardware for their business, but at the end of the day, the only thing you really need to know are their benefits:
- There are added layers of security.
- It’s cost efficient.
- Accessibility is incredible.
Take the traditional phone system as an example.
Hardwiring a phone system into your new business location can cost thousands depending on the number of connections needed. Couple in hardware and the cost keeps rising. The cloud alternative would be adopting a VoIP phone system which can be set in place over existing ethernet connections and through the addition of inexpensive VoIP hardware. Benefits over a traditional system are also found through the online services bundled with the subscription which may include great business features like virtual fax, free call recording, conference bridging, and centralized management to improve customer service (and employee productivity).
Here are others amazing benefits that are found through the cloud (which were touched on above but now in additional detail):
- Payroll – Dump manually printing payroll checks, managing time sheets and scheduling payment by using a payroll service in the cloud which combines these tasks into one system.
- Logistics – No more having to continually check shipping rates, visit the post office, or calculate the best options for customers as plugins and online tools will now automatically find the best in-between for business and customer.
- Hardware/Software – Cut the cost of expensive servers and individual stations thanks to network-ready devices (tablets, phones, netbooks) that save on hardware costs while dialing back on finances by using free services like email, project management, and the like.
- Marketing – Spend a fraction of the cost compared to billboards, phone book placements, print media ads, and local campaigns by utilizing websites, email, social media, online advertising, affiliate marketing, and more – all of which can be launched and maintained online.
The investments you can make into cloud services for your business are astounding. It’s why so many businesses have opted out of spending capital on retail locations in favor of a small hub of operation. In fact, depending on your business, you may not even need employees thanks to cloud services that would allow employees to work-from-home.
All-in-all, cloud computing (and the many services that have sprung up around it since the adoption of the Web) has been, by far, the biggest game changer for small businesses. Those businesses failing to adopt what the Web has to offer will fail to adopt growth and profitability.
Yesterday was when you should have already begun implementing cloud services into your business, but it’s never too late. If you haven’t done so already, you may as well start today (because you can bet that your competitors are clamoring for the lead).