The Cloud: A Level Playing Field for SMBs

By | May 8, 2012

If you had to guess, how many times have you heard the term “cloud computing” in the past 12 months? The cloud has existed for more than a decade as a tentative concept. Larry Ellison brought his idea of “network computers” to Charlie Rose in 1996, and at an Apple conference the late Steve Jobs described his own computing setup that deployed the use of a remote server to keep data accessible from multiple computers.

Radical ideas back then have become la mode of our era. This has a lot to do with the way our digital lives have formed and are now spreading out.

Businesses that may have been Main Street curiosities 20 years ago can now broadcast their wares over the Internet, generating demand from all corners of the world. Business in the 21st century is a global affair for the international corporation and now, too, for the stay-at-home Etsy entrepreneur. The cloud is a technology that helps facilitate the gap in resources between those two ends of the business spectrum.

One of the benefits to being a massive, for-profit organization is that you generally have lots of money to purchase the resources you need, including warehouses packed with servers, an army of techs to maintain those servers, and the energy bill to keep it all running. The advent of cloud computing and the business model of paying for computing power/storage space is a revelation for small businesses because it puts those high-end resources in the hands of entrepreneurs and small business owners.

The largest draw of the cloud, for corporations and hole-in-the-walls alike, is its ability to reduce the cost of many of the functions of doing business. As we move into an increasingly digital existence, information technology plays a large part in almost any business, no matter the size. These days, everyone needs a server, but not everyone can purchase one. Paying a company to provide the high-performance computing resources and online storage will always be cheaper than building that infrastructure yourself. The cost of the maintenance of that equipment vanishes in a digital dust. Or at the very least is incorporated into the fee you pay a provider at a much lower number than it would be otherwise.

Server maintenance, monitoring and other IT services are taken care of by cloud providers at a fraction of the cost of hiring and paying an in-house team. Capital saved in this area can then be applied to developing other areas of a business. A corporation might use the extra money to pay out a bonus to stockholders, but this perk is especially important for companies that are starting out or still in the first five years.

Rather than the best network solutions being exclusively available to the companies with enough money to take advantage of them, the cloud acts as a great equalizer. Small businesses get a chance to “touch the cloth,” if you will, of “elite processing power” and network resources.

In many ways, the cloud is like loan consolidation. Rather than pay for multiple different services (equipment, maintenance, software, etc.), small businesses have the option to essentially lease all of those services at a high quality for a relatively low rate. Of course, Sam’s Auto Refinishing is a medium sized business that probably has no real need for buying in to the cloud, and it’s important to remember that all these observations are more or less specific to the types of businesses that need the services herein described. But as smartphones continue to course through society, and we become more digital beings, Web presences and services will undoubtedly play a more important role in the success of businesses, especially the ones that are still growing.

About the Guest Post Author: Jennifer Marsh is a software developer, programmer and technology writer and occasionally blogs for Rackspace Hosting.