The future of your small business - in the clouds

The world is definitely changing, isn’t it? The recession of 2009 has business managers thinking that flat is the new up in terms of growth, and as for accounts receivables, 90 days is the new net 30.

So if I were to suggest that you should “have your head in the clouds,” in the past you would have asked why I would encourage you to disconnect from reality. But today, that suggestion would be quite to the contrary because having your head in the clouds in 2009 is actually a very real way for your small business to gain a competitive advantage. Let me explain.

If you haven’t already heard it, let me introduce you to a new term: cloud computing. Get used to it because cloud computing is going to become as ubiquitous as terms like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and social media.

In truth, cloud computing isn’t all that new. The early term was ASP, which stands for Application Service Provider (also ISP, for Internet Service provider). These were the first developers of processing power that a customer could access over the Internet without having to own it and install it on his or her desktop or server. The next generation of this highly efficient way to leverage technology was – and still is - called software-as-a-service, or SaaS for short. But more and more, as acquiring processing power offsite (think mobility) becomes the norm rather than the exception, we’ll think of this kind of leverage as cloud computing.

If you’ve ever sent an instant message, you’ve worked in the clouds. If you’ve ever made a transaction in that virtual marketplace called eBay, you’ve conducted cloud computing. and if you’ve managed a community on any of the social media sites, you’re a cloud-head.

Cloud computing is a pretty intuitive way to think about managing your work and life in cyberspace, isn’t it? But it’s more than intuitive; for small businesses, cloud computing is the next generation of thinking about gaining a competitive advantage. The more you can acquire processing power on-line, the less you have to capitalize that power because, virtually by definition, cloud computing comes with incremental delivery, on-demand availability and pay-as-you-go pricing. No muss, no fuss and turn around on a dime – just what small businesses need.

Recently, on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate show, I talked about this topic with a real, live cloud computing expert, Maia Sisk, Director, Product Management, IBM Lotus Online Collaboration Services (lotuslive.com), and a member of my Brain Trust. Take a few minutes to listen to what Maia has to say about what is to become such an important way of thinking about how you leverage your business model and your precious capital. And be sure to leave a comment.

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