Some of the smartest small business owners and managers I know are jumping on the “cloud bandwagon.” What I mean is, they are improving their business operations by using online software services.
Online software services are exactly what they sound like. They are software programs that you use online, by connecting to the Internet and logging in to the software using your Web browser. They’re called services because the company providing the software provides them as a service. This means they not only give you the use of the software, but they store and safeguard any data you use in the software program. The software company handles everything, soup to nuts: keeping the software running; fixing bugs; managing databases; preventing intrusions and data breaches; enhancing and updating the software.
In exchange for this service, your company typically pays a monthly fee. Sometimes you pay an annual fee. Some software services may even be free.
Think about the obvious impact: your firm needs fewer computing resources. All you need to use an online software service is a computer with an Internet connection. Even an inexpensive netbook computer is sufficient (I know – I’ve used online software programs with just my $399, 2-lb netbook!). You don’t have to invest in hefty up-front licenses, powerful servers to run the software and handle the data, support personnel to keep the servers running, and all the other expenses associated with in-house computing. A laptop or desktop computer for any staff who use the software, is enough.
You often hear lingo to describe these services in one form or another. Software as a service or its acronym, SaaS. Cloud computing. Software in the cloud. Application service provider or its acronym ASP. The list goes on.
I say, ignore the lingo. Focus instead on the benefits of these online software services. And there are quite a few. I’d go so far as to say that the advantages of using online software are greater for small businesses than for large corporations. That’s because online software lets your company be “lean.” When you allow someone else to worry about keeping the software running, you can focus on your business’s core competencies and strategic goals – and not be sidetracked by tech headaches.
You can also scale your business better. You can grow faster without adding as much expense burden and internal systems complexity. When new opportunities arise, you can seize them quickly. For instance, you can go online and sign up for a software service in minutes or hours – instead of waiting weeks or months to scope out requirements for and install a new software program you may need for servicing more customers. Using online software, the cost may be spread out monthly, instead of an all-at-once budget hit.
But what about security? You’re probably thinking, “Our customer data and business information now will be on a 3rd party’s computers.” If you are uncomfortable with that idea, I urge you to consider this: many small businesses I know just can’t afford the same level of security that a large software company can provide. As much as we business owners want to keep our data secure, a determined cyber intruder may get in anyway. A carefully-chosen software provider’s services may actually be MORE secure than the networks and systems of a small business. It’s not because small businesses are negligent or don’t care. It’s just that we smaller firms may not be able to afford the same level of security infrastructure, not to mention the same level of in-house expertise, to make strong security a reality.
In my webinar that I am presenting hosted by the Verizon Small Business Center, we’ll explore the advantages of online software. I’ll share tips and resources. You won’t get lingo. You won’t get theory. You’ll get practical advice to make sure you leave the hour equipped to make informed choices for your business. Make 2011 the year you improve your business operations and seize opportunities -- online software can help make it happen.
Join me later today at 2 p.m. Eastern for: In the Cloud: 5 Reasons to Move to Online Software. So, get your questions ready.
PS, if you can’t make the live webinar, it will be archived – just view it later.
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