Cloud computing gives you a new way to access many different types of software, no matter how small your company
It seems that everyone’s talking about how cloud computing is the answer to all your technology problems—and, depending on your problems, it may be. But before you can use the cloud, you need to understand what it is.
Cloud computing is not a product that you purchase; cloud computing is a deployment model. It is a new way to access and use software for your small company; it is also a new way for vendors to sell their products. How you use cloud computing is up to you.
Simply put, cloud computing allows you to use a vendor’s software over the Internet. Though the software is hosted on the provider’s server, it functions on users’ computers in the same way as installed software—your employees simply connect to it online. You do not purchase and install the application on your server or your desktops; depending on the cloud-based software (also referred to as Software-as-a-Service or SaaS), you might install a specialized client that people use to connect to the service or users might simply connect through their Web browser.
Unlike installed software, cloud-based software is a subscription, rather than a purchase. Depending on the cloud provider and the application, you could pay in one of a couple ways:
- actual use of the service
- number of users accessing the software
- monthly or annual contract
Cloud pricing is often called “pay as you go” because there’s very little commitment to the service. A cloud service subscription usually includes updates and patches to the software as well as maintenance and support.
Another difference between cloud computing and installed software is that you have more control over the specific features that you pay for. Many providers break their offerings down into modules, so you subscribe only to the features your employees actually need. For example, customer relationship management (CRM) software is popular among smaller companies because they can subscribe to, say, only a provider’s sales automation and customer support modules, instead of having to purchase and install a full CRM suite. If your company’s needs change, you simply subscribe to additional software modules, adding new features as you need them.
CRM isn’t the only type of cloud-based software small businesses are subscribing to. You can find a cloud-based version of almost any type of business software you need, including finance, operations, and marketing. You can also subscribe to voice over IP (VoIP) phone services and web conferencing applications.
Whatever type of software you access through the cloud, this deployment model offers small businesses particular benefits. It gives smaller companies access to more sophisticated applications than they could generally afford as installed software, and deploying it is significantly easier. Cloud-based software is available almost immediately, it doesn’t have to be fully customized to your environment, and you don’t need to have extensive in-house IT staff or equipment dedicated to it. If you’re looking for a cost-effective, efficient way to deploy business software, cloud computing may be the answer to your tech problems.
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