Don’t let it fool you – a “cloud” is not required.
It seems like everyone is pushing a “cloud” or “cloud service” of some kind for what seems like pennies compared to what it was a few years ago. The idea is that the data or service is accessible through the internet, not just a single device. It can be used in a variety of ways, and some of these might be the best for your small business, non-profit, or family.
- Cloud Website Hosting – If you have a company website, chances are you’re already using the cloud. Websites are a target for hackers around the world. By using a cloud-hosting platform, you (the small business) are responsible for your content, and providers like 29blue are responsible for the day to day tasks of ensuring the servers, firewalls, and applications are all secure from these hackers. If you are running a CMS, like WordPress, you’re only responsible for running the updates – which are getting more and more automated these days. Using a cloud-hosting solution for a website gives you a low-cost solution to having a publicly-accessible website.
- Cloud-based software – The days of buying software at the store and installing it on your computer are slowly dwindling away. A lot of software applications (including Microsoft Office 365) are switching to subscription-based cloud applications. This allows small businesses to leverage enterprise type applications without making a large capital investment. For personal use, I recommend trying Intuit’s free personal financial app Mint. Wave Accounting is great accounting software for small businesses, or for more advanced features, I recommend Intuit’s cloud-based QuickBooks. Most of these offer apps so you can continue to work from a tablet or mobile phone on the go. Not sure about it? Test drive it for 30 days.
- Cloud-storage is where it has advanced the most. You can select from “Public” or “Private” cloud options, which refers to where the data is stored.
- Popular “public cloud” storage services are Google Drive and Dropbox. They offer users cloud-based storage options that are accessible from anywhere. The data itself is not stored on your computers, so they are not susceptible to hardware failures, crashed servers, or stolen phones. An ideal place to store backups. These low-cost options (both Google and Dropbox offer free introductory plans), I would recommend them for personal use – like assigning dishes for the next family potluck or sharing presentations.
- The “private cloud” option, like Western Digital’s My Cloud service is my preferred method. These are devices that store your data on hard drives in your office or home, yet they provide the benefits of being accessible through the internet and on multiple mobile devices.
- Cloud-hosted Phone System – Many people don’t realize the benefits of a cloud-hosted PBX system for their business. Major companies, like Vonage and Comcast offer basic Voice Over IP services for your home and small business, but a cloud-hosted PBX can take your company to the next level. Companies like Vocalogic, offer cloud-hosted phone services for a minimal per-month cost. In return, you get a ton of features and complete end-to-end support, putting your phone system to work for you. And how about those cool phones? For businesses of all sizes, a cloud-hosted VOIP phone system could change the way you rely on your office phone.
Putting together the right cloud for your home, school, business, or non-profit is often a unique combination. For help on getting started with cloud-based services or if you want to be sure you’re getting the most from your cloud, call Esquire IT – 404-832-5836.