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Having a cloud loom over your business isn’t exactly a bad thing. We’re talking “cloud computing” here, which basically means storing and accessing data over the web instead of a computer’s hard drive. The cloud is a metaphor for the web. PCMag likened the server-farm Internet infrastructure to a cumulonimbus cloud.

There’s cloud computing for individuals, and there’s cloud computing for businesses, which is really taking off. Global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company claims 80 percent of large North American companies either already use cloud services or are considering them.

cloud computing

Why the popularity among businesses?

  • Cloud computing can be accomplished anytime and anywhere with just an online connection.
  • Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS, involves the business subscribing to an application it accesses over the web, such as Salesforce.com.
  • A business can create its own custom apps for everyone in the company to use with Platform-as-a-Service, or PaaS.
  • A company can “rent out” a foundation provided by Amazon and Google, for example, using Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).

What about small businesses?

How can they benefit from the cloud? Newly started companies should automate as many basic functions as they can, and that includes cloud, Time Business has stated. Dropbox is a storage and collaboration service that can benefit a small business, while billing and invoice programs such as OfficeTime make those tasks easier. Salesforce handles sales and customer accounts and tracking, and Intuit’s specialty is payroll and accounting.

For holders of small business credit cards, the cloud can come in handy to keep track of monthly statements and other data. For instance, if you have an American Express Gold Business Rewards Card, you can check statements online to prepare budgets and easily see how you can use points to make business purchases such as electronics and online advertising. The small-business owner also can keep data in one place so it’s easier to navigate.

Cloud services can make it simpler for small businesses to integrate cutting-edge software programs into their enterprise. Cost is no longer an obstacle for small businesses because current cloud-based software is affordable. Some providers offering a “pay-as-you-go” policy with no long-term contracts. Monthly fees are usually minimal as well.

Increase productivity for Businesses

Another bonus: since the service provider maintains the program and conducts upgrades, a small business doesn’t need to employ outside IT support. Cloud apps don’t typically require installations or downloads. The software is not limited to a single business network or computer terminal, so owners and staff can access the software at home or on the road. Customers can also tap into any online service the business offers. Make payments or schedule appointments — the capabilities are endless.

Providers of cloud services are usually familiar with small business owners and their needs, so providers can tailor their services to appease their clients. After all, each small business is different, but their owners and managers still want to run businesses efficiently and keep both employees and clients satisfied.