Tag Archive for 'cloud technology'

Small Business power from “the cloud”

One of the greatest products of human society is the marketplace. Webster defines it as a place where goods and services are offered for sale.

Over millennia, innovations took markets from local to global, and now to the 21st century iteration – virtual. Virtual markets are powered by “cloud computing,” aka “the cloud,” and accessed via the Internet.

Historically, as trade expanded markets, products led the way because services were difficult to convey to the last mile of consumption. But technology has helped services catch up, and now digital services are delivered efficiently from the cloud. And more than anything else, this last reality is helping small businesses compete and grow in ways that were formerly the domain of larger companies.

Here are five cloud-based resource categories that help your small business operate more efficiently, competitively, and profitably.

1.  Processing power
Robust software can be purchased incrementally and accessed as needed. Advantages include increased capability, most recent updates and expensing instead of capitalizing.

2.  Information power
Cloud-based communication, customer development, community building and financial applications help small businesses acquire and manage information quickly and strategically.

3.  Sales power
Cloud-based e-commerce has never been easier or more cost-effective for small businesses to offer, sell, and even deliver products and services 24/7/365.

4. Talent power
More and more, 21st century jobs don’t require employees to be under the nose of management. Cloud-based employee search capability improves candidate acquisition, and cloud-based communication and collaboration tools help virtual working relationships succeed.

5.  Asset protection power
Business assets used to be largely tangible, like inventory, equipment, etc. Today all businesses are increasingly creating opportunity from intangible assets. But for small businesses, protecting intangible, digital assets has been problematic. Cloud-based data back-up services work automatically, securely, productively and cost-effectively.

It’s likely that most small businesses use cloud resources more than they realize – which is a good thing. But with all of the cloud power available, every small business should become more aware of how to use cloud-based services and seek these options for their growth and profitability strategies.

Power your marketplace performance with the cloud.


On The Small Business Advocate Show, I’ve talked with with a lot of experts on how small businesses can take advantage of “the cloud” from becoming finding efficiencies to finances and data backup. Click here to see all of the cloud computing podcasts and download or listen.

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Are you feeling the pain of peer-to-peer?

How does your organization produce, share and secure digital information: peer-to-peer or server-based?

Peer-to-peer means stand-alone personal computers for every employee, connected to each other – if at all – over a local network also delivering Internet connection. Each PC has its own programs, files, data back-up and security. File sharing is possible, but not elegant. This is a classic small business system because of how we start and grow: one employee and PC at a time.

A server-based environment is the next level up. Growing businesses find that a server set-up provides more control over file management, sharing, back-up and security, plus efficiency when adding people.

A server is to a PC what a pair of overalls is to a hand-tailored suit – rugged, utilitarian and plain. It comes with a central processing unit (CPU) and hard drive(s), and is designed to “serve” workstations. All programs, storage, back-up and security resides on the server, instead of at the desktop. And file sharing? Servers are born to share files like a thoroughbred is born to run.

So how does a small business know when to make the leap from peer-to-peer to server?

The rap on converting to server-based has long been that it was big business complicated. For a small business to jump to a server system, the peer-to-peer environment had to be so unproductive that the pain had to be worse than the conversion challenges. But here’s good news: Today you can convert before the pain becomes unbearable.

For a few years now, technology companies have made server hardware and software much more adoption and user friendly for smaller companies, especially with the creation of something called a “server appliance.” This is a features-rich server with pre-loaded software designed to reduce conversion headaches. You just plug your new box into an electrical outlet and your network and, bada-bing, bada-bam, you’re server-based, baby, with central data back-up, security, file sharing – maybe even a phone system. Now, adding a new user is much easier than buying a new PC.

Most providers of these small business-friendly servers distribute them through one of your neighbors, a local small business computer company. Contact one in your area and let them help you decide if it’s time to make the jump to a server platform and which system is best for you.

Don’t let peer-to-peer pain get too bad before considering converting to a server.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

Secure your digital assets in the clouds

One of the great benefits of the computer age is the ability to aggregate virtually all of your work and records on your computer’s hard drive so they can be easily accessed on-demand, virtually instantaneously.  It is not possible to estimate the productivity value of this kind of information aggregation and availability for people and businesses.

Simultaneously, one of the great aggravations of the computer age has been when that same hard drive self-destructs, taking all of your wonderful and genius work with it, perhaps years of records, because you didn’t have an effective and regular back-up system.  Now, let’s say it all together: Boy howdy! Been there, done that, bought the tee shirt.

Over the years, my organization has employed several different methods of back-up, but even the most effective were never as automatic and immediate as they needed to be. These systems ranged from manually copying files onto another form of media to a more-or-less automated electronic configuration that turned out to be more less than more.

Of course, sophisticated mechanical onsite data back-up solutions have been around for years, like tape drives, for example. But these are designed more for centralized server-based environments and less for peer-to-peer environments (multiple desktop PCs with limited network capability), which is what is found in most small businesses.

For the past few years, online data backup resources have been growing in effectiveness and acceptance. They are great for all computing environments, but especially for small business peer-to-peer configurations.  Online data backup is an example of “cloud computing,” or digital solutions and services powered from software that does not reside on a local computer.

As with other cloud offerings, you subscribe to an online back-up service and download their linking software to your desktop. Once you set up the back-up parameters - when and what - those files are sent over the Internet to a remote server automatically without you having to be there or think about it. The price for most of these services fits most small business budgets, especially when you consider the alternative of losing your stuff.

Full disclosure, I resisted this kind of system at first out of concern for proprietary information being stored somewhere else. But once I talked with several of the providers, I learned that all transferred files are encripted for privacy and security.  Since we started using an online back-up service, we’ve lost hard drives but not one file. And if you have files that are so confidential and proprietary that you just can’t abide the thought of them being stored anywhere out of your reach, just mark them as such and the online back-up system will pass right over them.

Recently on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I interviewed David Friend, a successful, serial technology entrepreneur who is CEO of Carbonite, one of the online data back-up companies I’ve been talking about. More full disclosure: We use Carbonite in my organization, but we don’t get a discount or commission for mentioning them. Consider them with the other companies that offer online data back-up.

But first, take a few minutes to listen to our conversation about online data back-up and, as always, leave your thoughts. Listen Live! Download, Too!

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