In any developing economy, the potential benefits of ‘cloud based’ products, particularly for SMMEs, cannot be ignored. Yet for many a small business owner, the concept of ‘the cloud’ is still a foggy haze.
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The ‘cloud’ is most easily understood by small business owners as software services that are accessed via the internet, rather than software loaded on your computer, and where you are only charged for what you use or the use of the software for a certain period of time as opposed to an outright purchase of the software. With cloud based software service you typically pay a monthly licence fee to use; you never own the software. The software you access is installed on servers housed in data centres all over the world; the number of servers can be increased or decreased according to the number of users accessing the software. These servers are collectively referred to as the “cloud”.
One of the bonuses of using software services in the cloud is that your information related to the service you are using (e.g. accounting software) is automatically backed up all the time as part of the service you are paying for, without you having to do your own backups.
Lack of knowledge or misconceptions about what ‘the cloud ’ is or what it does have made business owners reluctant to explore it, in spite of the fact that it offers significant benefits for smaller businesses.
Not least of these is the cost saving. Cloud based products are typically charged for on a monthly basis rather than an upfront lump sum amount. This makes products and services that were previously ‘out of reach’ for small business much more accessible. Cloud service providers like Dimension Data are offering busy business owners easy, affordable access to practical software products that make doing business better and faster.
The question then is, why is the small business owner so reluctant to reach for the cloud? Probably because one (or more) of these five misconceptions persist.
Misconception #1: Thinking it’s expensive
On the contrary, cloud based products are charged on a monthly basis which makes them more affordable than having to pay a large amount upfront.
Misconception #2: Concern that it’s not as secure as traditional systems
Let’s be honest – software loaded on your own computer is far more vulnerable to theft and loss of data from your hard drive crashing or not being backed up.
Misconception #3: You need to be a “tech guru” to make sense of the cloud
The truth is, you’re probably already using cloud based solutions without any fuss, without even knowing it. For example, if you use an online backup service like dropbox you are using a cloud based service. With dropbox your data is stored across multiple servers in different locations (i.e. in ‘the cloud’)
Misconception #4: The cloud is for big business
In fact the opposite is true, the affordability and accessibility of cloud computing make it a perfect fit for smaller business. In first world countries small business are the first adopters of cloud based software.
Misconception #5: Thinking you’ll be locked in forever, concern that there is no way out of the cloud once you’re ‘in it’
On the contrary, you’ll find it is the norm to be given access to all your data should you decide not to continue to use a cloud based service. It is something to note when signing up for the service.
So what’s the bad news…
Cloud computing depends on reliable, high-speed broadband to be effective and powerful. And this is a major challenge in the South African market, where good broadband isn’t as wide-spread (or as affordable) as it should be.
Nonetheless, businesses cannot ignore the huge potential that cloud computing has for reducing their costs and improving a host of their business processes. Smaller and medium businesses also cannot ignore the variety of service and product offerings available in the cloud that are either free or cost very little. Savvy business owners are taking advantage of products that assist them with their financial recordkeeping, quoting, invoicing, payroll and accounting as well as online access to finance and others.