(Courtesy of USA Today)
Let’s say it’s the late 1990s. Advisers are telling you you’ve got to get on this thing called the Internet. You need a website, to be able to send files, and for gosh sake, you have to get email. (I wrote a column in 1997 saying exactly that!) Looking back, you’d say those advisers were right — the Internet was a fundamental shift in how business operates.
Right now, there’s another major transformation taking place. It’s going to change the way you do business. It’s called “cloud computing,” and you need to know about if you want to stay competitive. It’s going to give you far more power, with fewer headaches and less cost. And it’s here to stay.
Cloud computing is such a fundamentally important shift for growing companies that I’ve written a new book —Bringing the Cloud Down to Earth: How to choose, launch and get the most from cloud solutions for your business. It will be in bookstores in Spring, but you can get a free copy now of the e-book version thanks to Dell. They’re giving complimentary copies in conjunction with the launch of their new cloud offering — Dell Cloud Business Applications. To download a copy, go to www.DellCloudApplications.com/cloud_ebook.
First — in a nutshell, cloud computing means the delivery over the Internet – rather than from your own on-premise hardware — of computing applications, storage, power. Another term for the cloud computing most small and medium businesses (SMBs) need is SaaS — or “software as a service.”
Here’s how the cloud changes your world. Let’s say you now use a software program to track your customers and leads. You buy expensive software, host that on your own servers and computers (which need their own software). All of that needs regular maintenance and costly upgrades. If your staff grows or shrinks, you’re stuck with what you bought.
With cloud-based solutions, those problems basically disappear. Cloud-based solutions are delivered over the Internet, accessed through a browser, so employees can be on Macs, differing operating systems of PCs. Add employees? Up and running in minutes. Your needs change? Just reduce the number of subscriptions.
The best thing: Cloud-based solutions are typically far more powerful, yet easier to use and learn, than on-premise software. And your costs are stable and predictable.
There have been big barriers, however, for SMBs in adopting cloud solutions. It’s been challenging to know which solutions to choose and trust, and how to get cloud-based services to work with on-premise software or other cloud-based services. Then it’s been clumsy to pull together information from those various services.
The cloud is here to stay, so download a copy of my book to learn how you can harness the cloud for your business.
One day, I’m sure I’ll look back at this column as quaint, just as I smile as I look back on my 1997 column telling people to get email. When it comes to the cloud, we’re certain to say, “How did I ever live without it?”