A couple of years ago, business owners didn’t think about the cloud unless they were flying through one on the way to a major client meeting.
How times have changed. Not only is cloud, or web-based, technology providing start-ups with great entrepreneurial opportunities – from Saasu in accountancy to Dropbox in file sharing – it is also changing the way businesses operate.
According to figures released by Ovum last week, the cloud computing market will generate revenues of $12 billion in Asia-Pacific by 2016.
This growth, according to Ovum, will be driven by a soaring interest among small businesses for cloud-based applications.
“There are still a few mis-conceptions about the cloud – that it’s too difficult, too techie and that it’s not for non-web businesses,” says digital marketing strategist Adam Franklin.
“But I think attitudes are changing. People are perfectly happy to do their banking online, so once the penny drops that the cloud is much the same, as well as being so cost-effective, it will really take off. It’s a no-brainer.”
Franklin favours the 37 Signals suite, which includes the Base Camp project management system and contacts accumulator High Rise.
Ask another tech industry player and you’ll get another pet favourite – Mick Liubinskas, co-founder of Pollenizer, says that you can’t look beyond DropBox or One Password.
“It all depends on who your advisors are really, what your accountant or tech guy is telling you,” he says. “But in many ways the cloud is more secure than hard drives, which can crash.”
“With the cloud, multiple people can log onto the same file at the same time. It’s so much faster and efficient. You pay a couple of hundred bucks and you have peace of mind.”
“My computer crashed recently and all I needed was One Password, which backed up all my bookmarks, and 15 minutes later I was up and running again with no material difference.”
Online entrepreneur Fred Schebesta says that not working in the cloud turns business founders into “mini IT managers.”
“We’ve got people working for us in the Philippines and Mexico and it’s so easy to do when you’re in the cloud,” he says.
“In terms of what you’re saving a year, it will be around $3,000 on software, a further $5,000 on hardware, $5,000 on the redundancy savings and then another $4,000 on the tech guys that you would otherwise have to use.”
So, working in the cloud can save cash-strapped start-ups money, aid collaboration and significantly boost productivity.
But, with so many different cloud computing products out there, what are the essentials that can make an actual impact for your business?
Paul Wallbank, business writer, broadcaster and author of eBusiness, Seven Steps to Online Success, has boiled things down to offer his top five cloud computing tools that you should consider.