In the highly competitive world of business, small businesses need to seek out every advantage they can find. If used correctly, the cloud can be such an advantage. It offers tools that many older businesses are not utilizing, offering new possibilities of all sorts. Here are just a few of the many ways that you can use the cloud in your small business.
Automate Your Off-Site Backup
You may have read articles on the subject of computer security in which you are told to keep off-site backups. The idea is to have a system backup stored at a location that is totally unconnected to yours, which is less likely to be targeted. However, the process of maintaining off-site backups can be quite cumbersome without the use of the cloud.
Backup files tend to be compressed or bundled into image files, most of which are fairly large. Transmitting those large files over the internet can pose problems. You don’t want to use publicly available file-sharing programs because that will make the data available for any user to download, making for an unacceptable security risk. The cloud represents the most convenient way to communicate with your off-site storage.
The big advantage here is definitely the convenience of having a self-updating backup, as opposed to doing it manually on a regular basis. Further, if there is some kind of system outage, cybersecurity incident, or other malfunction, your backups are likely to be more recent. Thus, the damages done by such an incident can be minimized.
Remote Work Facilitation
The use of the cloud allows employers to coordinate remote workers with more efficiency than ever before. Because the cloud represents a shared computing environment that is accessible from any internet-capable device, it will always be the same. Thus, remote workers don’t have to take the time to learn a new process. Whether they use a laptop, desktop, mobile device, or anything else, the experience and interface will be pretty much the same.
The cloud also allows for the tracking of remote work in a way that isn’t normally possible. Again, because everyone is using the same environment, it becomes easy for an administrator to peek in and see how everyone is doing. Obviously, this does present certain security risks, but only if the administrator’s credentials are compromised.
Better Access To Data
Over time, a business can accumulate a lot of stored records and other data. In the past, when these records had to be kept on paper, the result would often be whole rooms full of file cabinets. Nowadays, you have pretty much two options: External hard drives or the cloud. These are the two most practical ways to store large amounts of digital data.
External hard drives do offer better security, especially if they are encrypted. However, the cloud offers much better convenience and better access to important data. When everything is stored on external hard drives, it can take a while to find the right one. From there, you will probably have to navigate through a maze of files and folders until you find the right one.
With the cloud, you have an online database containing all that same important information. It can be keyword-searched easily like an internet search engine, making it much easier to find what you need. Obviously, you should put your most sensitive files on external media and store them in a secure location. However, for everything else, it makes far more sense to use the cloud.
Simple And Limited Web Hosting
Pretty much every business operates a website, but these are mainly intended to attract customers and/or potential employees. Within the company network, it is often practical to host special forums and services that are company-specific or even proprietary. It might be something as simple as an online report form, or as complex as a semi-closed social networking site for employees only. The cloud is an ideal way to do this kind of thing.
Many companies choose to create their internal networks (intranets) by establishing their own private server. This does work, but it does put all your eggs in one basket. If that one server goes down, everything goes down. Yes, you can use multiple servers in the same location, but that isn’t a whole lot better. Anything that affects a server in one location is likely to affect the others in that same location.
For instance, consider circumstances like power outages, network service outages, DDOS attacks, and ransomware attacks. These are some of the more common things that can take down a particular server, and all of these are likely to affect multiple connected machines. The cloud has the advantage of using many servers in multiple locations, many of which are “virtual servers.” Virtual servers are basically emulators that run inside another system, emulating the function of a server in a closed-off environment. Thus, if something goes wrong, the host machine and its network are unaffected.
The cloud can be insecure, but only if it is used improperly. Here are a few tips to avoid the common mistakes:
- Never put your most sensitive information in the cloud
- Never put financial information like credit card/bank account numbers in the cloud
- Never use short, weak passwords for cloud logins
- Always use multi-factor authentication to filter out non-legit users
- Always employ both physical and cloud backup methods
- Consider restricting cloud access to approved machines
- Consider the use of a network monitoring service
The cloud is a truly versatile and useful business tool. As such, it should be explored by anyone running a small business. While it may not be practical for everyone, it has proven to be helpful for many. When you provide a complete and interconnected cloud environment, it’s almost like having everyone use the same computer at once. If you would like to learn more, feel free to call PCH Technologies at (856) 754-7500.