Leadership & Productivity

Confused by cloud services? Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons

5 min read

31 October 2017

Former special projects journalist

The market is full of cloud services – but what do they actually offer, and why should you use them over the tolls you already have? It might surprise you to learn that you may already be using a fair few.

Cloud services are on the rise, and they’re here to stay. But how can they help an ambitious business scale up?

In recent years, the term “cloud” has gained an awful lot of traction in IT circles. However, for many small and growing business owners without a technology background, it can sound a little abstract and intangible.

The market is full of cloud services – but what do they actually offer, and why should you use them over the tolls you already have? It might surprise you to learn that you may already be using a fair few.

Cloud services are simply those which store information on the internet. For example, Hotmail or Gmail accounts are cloud services – your messages are not stored on your computer, but over the internet. You can log in to read these messages on any device that has a connection to the internet, regardless of where you are.

Advantages of cloud services

Flexible – As you can access services remotely from any device with a connection to the internet, employees can work more flexibly, and access projects even while travelling.

Cooperation – More than one person can access projects at a time, meaning enhanced cooperation benefits. Take Google Sheets for an example – employees do not have to save and send a document to ensure their colleagues are seeing the most recent version.

Cheaper – There are many cloud services which are free to use, and many which are offered on a pay-as-you-go model. This means you only pay for the services you use.

More intuitive – Many cloud services are designed with small businesses in mind, and are simple to use. This means businesses can benefit from tools including expenses management, analytics, data storage, disaster recovery and many more while saving money on in-house IT specialists.

Scalability – With cloud services, businesses don’t have to second guess how much capacity is needed thanks to many services offering pay-as-you-go pricing. It is easier to scale up safe in the knowledge that the service providers necessary will be able to scale with you.

Disadvantages of cloud services

Security – Some business owners may feel uncomfortable hosting data outside of their own premises – especially for particularly sensitive data.

There is an option to utilise a private cloud, whereby the hardware used is dedicated to one single organisation. However, this can be more expensive than a public cloud model as it doesn’t benefit from the pay-as-you-go model.

What sorts of services are out there?

There are cloud services on offer for almost any business process you can think of – and as mentioned earlier, the chances are that most small businesses are already using some. Dropbox, Slack, Microsoft Office 3656, WebEx, Zendesk and webexpenses are all widely-used examples of popular cloud services.

If you are considering adopting more cloud services, do some research and see what freebies you can find before committing to payment plans. You may find your business can function perfectly with a free level of service, or you may find after a free trial that the service is totally unsuited to what you are trying to achieve.

Just make sure you aren’t burying your head in the sand – cloud services are here to stay and they are ideal for businesses looking to scale up at a pace. Don’t get left behind.

This article is part of a wider campaign called the Scale-up Hub, a section of Real Business that provides essential advice and inspiration on taking your business to the next level. It’s produced in association with webexpenses and webonboarding, a fast-growing global organisation that provides cloud-based software services that automate expenses management and streamline the employee onboarding process.