It's Getting Cloudy For Business Owners

There’s no doubt that internet based technologies are transforming the business landscape throughout the world. Just look at how you do your banking, travel and entertainment bookings, not to mention your music purchases.

This shift is also revolutionising how professional advice is delivered across the globe. Many professional firms have already gone paperless and they communicate and interact with their clients and customers via email, secure portals and tele-conferencing. Some businesses have disposed of their servers altogether and now operate totally in the cloud.

Cloud computing remains one of the big issues facing business owners going forward. Generally speaking, cloud computing means your files or software are stored on someone else’s hard drive in someone else’s data centre and are only accessible via the internet. Programs such as Dropbox, Office 365 and Xero are popular examples.

A recent survey of 1,000 Australian small businesses suggested only 19% of those businesses were using ‘the Cloud’ for business. However, 98% of those that say they are not using the cloud, in fact are using it in some form.

Hardware - Chromebooks

When the Google Chromebook launched in Australia in March 2013 it made headlines for one reason, the price. In Australia, Acer’s Chromebook sells for $299 and the more popular Samsung version sells for $349. Of course the downside of this low price is that basically the hardware is useless without an internet connection as the laptops run the Chrome operating system accessing web apps in the cloud rather than installing local software.

For businesses with a mobile workforce using laptops, the price is compelling. The mindset and IT strategy may need to change but it opens up a whole range of possibilities. A damaged Chromebook can be replaced in a matter of minutes with no time wasted, no loss of data and no risk of the hard drive becoming infected. Tablets too are popular with businesses where the need for the keyboard is not imperative.

A Chromebook also features remote management and the operating system is automatically updated with new features and security updates every six weeks. Each Chromebook includes an amount of web storage in Google Drive in addition to the machine’s local hard drive. Users can log into Chrome to keep their settings and access files stored in the cloud, but they can also use guest mode or open an ‘incognito’ browser window for privacy.

Chromebook - Disadvantages

The main disadvantage of a Chromebook is that users cannot use conventional applications such as Windows-based accounting software or other server-based applications. Another disadvantage is that the machines don’t work without web connectivity. There are 3G/4G models which allow users to tether their phones or insert a SIM card directly into the Chromebook, however, Google is only launching the Wi-Fi only Chromebook in the Australian market at this stage.

Lastly, there is the issue of security. Imagine all your data files being copied onto a hard drive and stored elsewhere which you can access by logging in via the internet. You would probably ask yourself, “If I can access my data via the internet, who else can?”

Cloud Advantages

Infrastructure is the area most impacted by Cloud computing. Successful online businesses are being built with minimal infrastructure and being able to move and adapt quickly, provisioning servers in minutes to meet fast evolving customer demands.

In the near future all software will be available online for rental rather than outright purchase and there may only be a website to communicate with so get ready. Forecasts suggest businesses using the cloud are much more likely to see their revenue rise than those who don’t.

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