The internet has provided great opportunities for people running small and medium-sized businesses, allowing them to increase their reach through online marketing. It brings goods and services to a wider audience at a low cost, and the development of more advanced and sophisticated hardware and software has resulted in a plentiful array of accessible online aids and tools.Internet access to hardware and software, as well as business resources, has streamlined enterprise resource planning (ERP) functions, which includeonlinemanagement of finances, human resources, customer relationships, procurement and production. Now, cloud technology is freeing up more time and money for businesses by centralizing functions and allowing users to log into a web-based service that can host all the programs a business needs.
When difficulties arise in an online business, many owners don’t have the same resources as office-based companies – for example, few smaller enterprises have a specialized IT department that can be called upon to sort out technical difficulties, and this is where cloud computing comes into its own. Instead of spending time and money fixing faulty hardware or upgrading suite after suite of software – all to perform different functions – cloud users benefit from being able to leave the technology in the hands of someone else and simply to access what they need when they need no matter where they are.
Integration of data and resources
Some firms like to use the cloud for specific functions, such as word processing or data programming and storage as this means personal computers do not have to use hard drive space and memory to store this information individually. It also means that the data on the central server is accessible to everyone in the network and doesn’t have to be moved from one computer to another on a storage device or electronically.
The implications for businesses are that as cloud computing advancesso hardware requirements are reducing, and investment in fast, powerful computers is no longer necessary, saving money. It is enough to own a basic device with a monitor, keyboard and enough processing power to access the cloud system, where all the business information is stored. Cloud systems always make backup copies of all the data they receive and store these separately in case of any technical difficulties, so data can be retrieved even if a problem develops.
Tools that are especially useful to businesses include accounting software that can also generate invoices and keep track of payments; word processing software for correspondence, reports, etc.; databases for tracking people and things; marketing and project management software – all the ingredients in ERP in fact. All these sorts of programs, and many more, can be handled by a cloud system, and many of them can be integrated in such a way as to “connect up” all the different business functions to improve workflow and increase efficiency.
There are public clouds shared by many organizations and private clouds often tailor-made for larger firms. Without doubt, cloud computing will go from strength to strength, offering small and medium-sized enterprises more support and better online capabilities than ever before.