Solutions for overworked Small Business owners: Did USA Today get it right?

by Marcy Hoffman on July 21, 2011

Are the benefits of Cloud Computing real or a cloud-like dream?

How much time do business owners spend a week dealing with technical issues? And at what cost? USA Today observed:

From smartphones to souped-up servers, a plethora of technological tools can help small businesses as they expand. Yet with so many options — and so many business demands that need to be met — technology can be daunting for even the most experienced entrepreneurs.

“It‘s this feeling that you‘re falling behind constantly,” says Todd Thibodeaux, CEO of the Computing Technology Industry Association, the country‘s largest IT trade association. “There is so much change out there,” he says, and business owners often have much “fear and frustration” as they try to keep up.

There‘s the cost: Growing businesses often have to shell out big bucks for equipment that could quickly become obsolete. There‘s also the time factor: 43% of business owners spend more than two hours a week on technology problems, according to a National Small Business Association (NSBA) survey to be released this week.

The problem is one every small business owner is familiar with so I was curious to read the author’s recommended solution:

Consider seeking help

But IT experts say those already overburdened owners should consider seeking outside assistance. Small-business owners often launch firms that capitalize on their strengths, whether it‘s baking pies or doing public relations, says Thomas Clancy, founding partner of IT consulting firm Valiant Technology. “But when it comes to doing technology, that‘s a separate skill set that goes on top of running a business,” he says. “And it‘s something that many can‘t wrap their head around.”

Why does it sound as though this was written by an IT consultant?  Adding yet another layer of costs to any business’ bottom line is simply unacceptable. Especially when there is a better solution that will substantially reduce expenses and provide significant benefits.

Cloud computing eliminates many of the IT headaches that this article alludes to. Hardware costs are by most part, eliminated. Cloud-based apps and platforms are housed by Tier 1 companies such as Amazon, Google, and InfoStreet, a cloud-based host since 1994. Cloud-based apps eliminate the need for in-house servers,  work from any web-enabled device, and end the absurd MAC vs PC war. (And you can turn your server closet back into what it was intended for: coats.)

Storing files on these secure, reliable, cloud-based services helps eliminate backup worries and gives you anytime access to your files. Typically cloud-based services are simple to use—the only thing you need is a computer, (or in some cases, a mobile handset), a browser and an Internet connection. And such services require no maintenance from the user.

And collaboration with your team, partners, and customers anytime and anywhere is a major benefit of cloud computing.

“If you’re the kind of small business that has employees who work from different places–or has remote employees, board members, or vendors who need access to your data–cloud computing is the only way to go,” says Rosenfeld of Fanminder.

These benefits level the playing field for the small businesses, allowing them to “stay focused, be more collaborative, and bring products to market more quickly, because they’ve got access to the kind of infrastructure that only large companies used to have,” says Judith Hurwitz, president and CEO of Hurwitz & Associates and a coauthor of Cloud Computing for Dummies .

“He says that in their bid for technological expansion, many business owners often get overwhelmed, overextend themselves and overspend.”

Not anymore. Using the cloud to run your business allows you to actually run your business- not your technology.

{ 4 comments }

Simon July 23, 2011 at 5:20 pm

I am a big supporter of the cloud and use it for my web design business. However, the concern is that the cloud means trusting other people and infrastructure, which sort of then drives the need to have a back up plan of the cloud in local storage.

The other concern is relying too much on free services provided by Microsoft, Google or others. What if they do lose critical data, if it is a free service no come back.

Simon
Colchester, UK

marcy hoffman July 23, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Simon
The fear of trusting cloud based vendors is understandable, but will diminish over time. Most individuals and businesses already rely on the cloud to communicate, transact ecommerce and, using smartphones, work in a mobile environment. It will shortly come to pass that companies will need the fluidity and mobility of the cloud to stay competitive. I totally agree with your concern about free products; it is all to often true that ‘you get what you pay for’. An earlier post. pointed out the potential headaches that ‘free’ email can cause a company. Free can mean a lack of accountability to one’s customer, as you pointed out.
Marcy

Simon September 1, 2011 at 10:43 am

Hi Marcy,

I do also think that some types of data will never be trusted i.e. banking details, etc. Not unless the owning institution is 100% certain that their data is segregated from others.

Simon

marcy hoffman September 1, 2011 at 10:58 am

Yet, according to ComScore ” The Number of U.S. Mobile Financial Account Users Surges 54 Percent to 30 Million in Past Year”. . I wonder if the resistance is a generational issue.

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