Cloud hosting is undoubtedly one of the most popular services used to keep businesses large and small organized and operational without the less secure paper options of old, but many organizations fail to harness the technology for all it's worth. For those that are still struggling to keep up with the curve, here are some basic practices to make your foray into cloud services as smooth and efficient as possible.
Protect your network from predators
An executive is hard-pressed to hear a word about the cloud without an in-depth discussion on cloud security right on its heels. With high-profile hacking incidents like the infamous Edward Snowden breach in 2013 and a more recent major data compromise from leading retailer Target, protecting your company's financial and otherwise sensitive documents is an absolute must. Disaster recovery plans for business are available through many cloud providers, as well as monitors that can keep an eye on the speed at which a server is working and its overall security.
The more services that are attached to your cloud services in-office - many offer to bundle other useful services like a business mobile phone plan or web hosting - the more efficient a business can be, but this can never come at the expense of protecting the interest of your brand. Tampa Bay Times writer Susan Thurston sums up this lack of common knowledge concisely in a recent editorial.
"Basically, we can't keep up," she stated bluntly. "Singer points to company executives who still haven't embraced the digital age. They hide behind lower-level managers who handle the computer stuff, yet when a cybersecurity problem arises, they have to make the final call."
Fortunately, internet for small businesses doesn't need to be a confusing labyrinth for owners who don't have the time to learn all the ins and outs of data protection - most cloud services are willing and able to assist in any troubleshooting with the technology.
Keep things organized to promote productivity
The freedom from filing cabinets, copy machines and conventional printers is a wonderful thing for office productivity, but organizations new to cloud technology need to ensure that they are digitizing and transitioning company information in a responsible and organized fashion. Before the big transition can occur, project managers can experiment with the infrastructure and new potential methods so that information can be arranged to better serve employees and customers alike.
Information Technology Group blogger Steve Saslow recommended taking significant time going through old records when first making the switch to ensure that nothing unnecessary or highly sensitive is misplaced. As with all things remote data storage-related, it all comes back to cloud security.
"After you remove the concern about whether or not your data is being stored properly, it's crucial to set some time aside to go through everything," Saslow wrote. "The cloud does come with security concerns, and leaving data lying around that you don't know about is an unnecessary risk with zero pay-off."
Once documents have been evaluated for usefulness within the new system, it's necessary to set up an infrastructure that is conducive both to access and collaboration. One of the most productive conveniences of the cloud system is the ability to share data and work on projects together in real time, often from completely different locations. To make this process as simple for employees as possible, documents should be stored in logically named, easy-to-find folders.
Cloud applications work to your bottom line's advantage
Think of any social media that is an integral part of your marketing strategy for small business - chances are, the mass amount of user data held on these sites is stored using cloud services. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and more all make use of massive server farms to store their information and, just like any business, are constantly seeking out new ways to increase the security to promote clout amongst Web users.
Cloud applications like this can be a major source of marketing for a company that lacks a hefty promotional budget. Many of these tools are available for use at a base level for no cost at all, and a marketer with an eye for viral content production and the willingness to participate and create productive industry discussion can generate a lot of positive attention for a company without a big impact on the bottom line.
A recent Facebook conference offered small businesses advice on best practices to harness the cloud tool to their advantage, according to an article from Inc. The primary takeaways included promotion of visual content, customer engagement and merely being aware of emerging trends.
"If you can't get the people whose paychecks you sign to get involved with your brand, you can't expect strangers to either," the article explained.
So go forth, small business owner, and keep your head in the cloud - it could end up paying off.