Owners ask: What are the advantages of cloud computing for a small business or startup?

small biz cloud

Imagine this scenario (and it’s not uncommon):

An office worker wants to start her own business. She decides to try affiliate marketing. She finds a product she believes in and researches its affiliate marketing program. It uses one of the major online-affiliate programs.

She heads over to Squarespace, creates an account and designs an ecommerce site using one of its templates. Looking sell more in the future, she’ll set up a credit card account with Stripe because it integrates easily with Squarespace. For the immediate future, because she’s an affiliate, the vendor will do all the shipping.

This is about as simple as an online business can be, but it demonstrates many of the advantages of cloud computing for a small business. For example, she didn’t have to hire anyone or even get help from a consultant. Let’s list some more:

  • She was in business in a matter of hours.
  • She could easily scale her business and add other products.
  • Squarespace and Stripe are essentially responsible for keeping up with best security practices and providing backups.
  • She didn’t personally own any hardware that could go down.
  • She could easily change her line of products.
  • She didn’t have to make a large initial investment.

I used founding a small ecommerce site for my example, but all of the productivity and cost-effectiveness attributes I listed apply to almost any business using a cloud service. When you consider a cloud service, half of the benefits are the service you get and half of the benefits are the headaches you don’t get. (This ratio changes depending on the specific cloud service being discussed!)

The following short list features cloud computing services that have proved themselves to be deliver advantages to small business owners.

Office 365. As much as we love to hate Microsoft, its Office 365 has proven to be a real winner with small and medium-sized businesses. You get cloud-based storage, all of the Microsoft Office software (including updates). One business subscription lets you install the software on five devices and with its cloud storage you those five devices can access and edit your documents from virtually anywhere.

Basecamp. Keep everyone on the same page with this project management cloud service. Many small businesses depend on Basecamp and one of its best features is its ease of use.

Google docs. If you don’t want the expense of Office 365 or don’t feel like you’re tied to the Microsoft Office applications, Google Docs, with its related Google Drive is a great choice. You can author and edit documents online, or download them. It can easily work with documents created by the Microsoft Office software suite.

Dropbox. This convenient cloud storage system makes every article or list that discusses the advantages of cloud computing for a small business. A basic, free account gets you two gigs of cloud storage that you can access just like another folder on your computer.

Salesforce. With Salesforce we’re moving beyond computing basics and into a specialized cloud-based application. Salesforce gives small businesses extremely powerful customer relationship management tools, such as custom dashboards, e-mail marketing, sales forecasts, real-time data sharing, basic customer service and more. This gives you and your team the ability to “multiply yourselves” and compete with bigger organizations.

Sage Live. Since I mentioned Salesforce, I need to mention Sage Live, which integrates with the Salesforce1 cloud platform. Sage Live brings real-time accounting to your mobile devices so you know where you’re at 24-7.

RingCentral. This is a cloud-based VOIP phone solution. It gives you a lot of flexibility in the way you manage phone communication. For instance, for a startup with no real office, it can “load balance” incoming calls so no one person is too heavily burdened.

This is just a sampling of the cloud services you can get today and more are being created all the time. So when we ask the question, “What are the advantages of cloud computing for a small business or startup?” we’ll have even more advantages to list the next time we answer.