Distance Is No Longer An Object
Written by Steve Ross
In the office, at home, or on the road - the cloud has given small businesses an unprecedented level of connectivity and continuity...
The era of cloud computing is revolutionising the small business landscape. Constant connection, flexible services and the integration of personal devices has opened up the business world, and given SMEs an indispensable tool to go toe-to-toe with their larger counterparts. Perhaps the cloud's greatest advantage is to transform the office inside and out: the cloud enables small businesses to reach beyond their walls - closing the distances between clients, markets and their own employees.
With new business opportunities emerging every day, how is the cloud's connective power changing the small business workplace?
Unlocking the Office
Bringing together a core team of capable employees is essential to the success of any small business. Cloud computing delivers opportunities to enhance the way the members of that team work together - and unlock the potential of the office as one location in a vast working world...
- Workspace & Maintenance: At a very basic level, since cloud platforms are hosted off-site, you won't need to use valuable work space within your premises to accommodate bulky servers or data storage - and can put the space you save to much better, more efficient use. As an added bonus, software maintenance issues are handled by your service provider, removing the need to wait for an IT repairman to reach the office whenever there's a technical problem.
- Mobile Access: With mobile apps and services, cloud platforms enable access to, and interaction with, your business network wherever there is an internet connection. If employees are leaving the office regularly to meet with clients or deliver services to off-premises locations, the cloud offers a way to avoid downtime and keep everyone in the office instantly updated. Personal devices can also be integrated into a cloud-enabled network, adding functional flexibility and expanding the reach of your business' services significantly.
- Remote Work: The cloud opens up ways for employees to work remotely, and remain a productive and essential part of the team. This flexibility means childcare, health and mobility needs can be accommodated more easily, and travel issues can be overcome. If disaster strikes and your premises are forced to close, or roads are disrupted and employees can't get to work, the cloud lends business owners, employees and clients the confidence that work will continue.
Collaboration & Continuity
The cloud connects every part of your business to every corner of the working world with a range of powerful collaborative tools. Specifically, cloud platforms like Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps offer suites of business-targeted apps to cover a comprehensive range of work tasks (word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, etc...): employees can create, edit, save, review and discuss documents hosted on the cloud, in real time, wherever they are.
In practice, this means never having to leave your desk to connect with the rest of your team, or even clients in other offices: meetings and discussions can take place in the cloud, without the normal workplace inefficiencies (like finding a meeting room, or coordinating everyone's schedules). Perhaps most valuable from a service perspective, this aspect of the cloud emphasises business continuity. Employees working on a project remotely, in different offices or in different time-zones, can do so with the confidence that their colleagues will be able to bring the same levels of attention and computing capabilities to the table - doing so simultaneously, or by picking up seamlessly from the point they left off.
Over the past few years, we've watched our clients take advantage of the cloud - integrating apps and services with their existing IT networks to improve efficiency, productivity and, ultimately, the products they offer their own customers. While the cloud brings employees closer together, it also literally connects them to the wider landscape, nationally and internationally, putting them on a footing to win new customers in a range of new markets and proving that, for the modern small business, distance is really just a question of ambition.
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