Undoubtedly, working as a developer in cloud computing may be daunting! However, leveraging these directly in small businesses is comparatively easy. The usage of cloud computing in small businesses can help them to grow. Have you used google docs? If not, you must be watching the YouTube videos, right? If yes, you are already indirectly using cloud computing.
As per Foundry’s 2022 cloud computing research, nearly 63% of all the businesses in the world (from 41% today) are going to shift most or all of their IT infrastructure to the cloud. Whether a chemical process consultancy, a retail shop or a team of bloggers, they can all use cloud computing effectively, which can help them at various levels. For example, in recent years, many shops in Inda have dramatically increased the use of UPI-based payment gateways. Such as, PayTM, BHIM, GooglePay, etc. It helped customers and shopkeepers to transact directly from their accounts seamlessly. In 2020, India registered over 25.5 billion transactions on UPIs, the highest in the world. All of these gateways use cloud computing. Thus, the trend of using cloud computing for small businesses is indirectly propagating.Embed from Getty Images
The initial part of this article is focused on what is cloud computing and its components. Later, the key advantages and challenges of using cloud computing for small businesses are discussed.
Cloud Computing in BriefEmbed from Getty Images
During the pre-computer time, information used to be stored on paper and would be kept somewhere safe. With the advent of technology, data is stored on the hard drive, where storing, processing, and retrieving the data is at extremely high speed. If the information increases, it is stored on dedicated servers.
But imagine a situation where accessing data is necessary from remote places such as multiple countries. Also, what if various parties want to access the data simultaneously? In such cases, a dataset located in solitude becomes useless. That’s when cloud computing becomes essential.
In simple terms, cloud computing allows the storage and access of data using the internet unlimitedly (in the literal sense).
Cloud computing is possible with multiple remote servers connected via the internet. Systematic use of this network requires several components, such as databases, software, virtual storage, networking, etc. To use cloud computing, we have to approach a cloud-computing service provider. But what exactly do they have for us? Typically, their services can be categorized into three parts (three cloud-based services). We apriori have to decide which service to avail.
Let’s first see those services in brief.
Software as a Service ( SaaS)
A service provider directly offers businesses a final software product through the web browser. For example, many engineers know MATLAB® software used for engineering calculations. While one can always download and use it, a SaaS company will provide access directly without installing it. This way, we can pay a subscription amount to access such software.
This service’s advantage is no need for high-end hardware to run the software on machines. Further, due to its web-based delivery, no need for the IT team to solve the problems of installations, technical issues, storage, etc. The service provider takes care of it.
Examples of such companies are Hubspot, G-suit, DropBox
Platform as a Service ( PaaS)
PaaS providers give platforms for software development. Often, the businesses involved in software development have specific requirements, such as multiple Operating Systems and infrastructure. So that they can develop robust products.
Thanks to PaaS, the developers need not to start from scratch as their requirements are fulfilled by PaaS providers. Also, they can collaboratively work on the same project as a team, streamlining the workflow. This speeds up the software development process.
Examples of such companies are AWS Lambda, Microsoft Azure, and Google App Engine.
Infrastucture as a Service (IaaS)
Some businesses may be involved in complicated stuff. They might need more than directly installed software or software development. Instead, they might need complete control over a physical server. However, purchasing such servers, due to high costs, are extremely expensive. Here comes IaaS handy.
IaaS provides essential computing, storage, and networking resources on demand. The providers provide their physical data centers as ‘virtual data centers.’ Compared to PaaS and SaaS, IaaS is flexible due to the availability of the entire data center.’ Further, the required software resources can be bought as needed.
Examples of such companies are…AWS, Microsoft Azure, IBM Cloud.
Now that we have a brief rough non-technical background of cloud computing let us see what its key benefits of it are.
Key Benefits of Using Cloud Computing
1. Handy DataEmbed from Getty Images
Since the data is stored online, businesses can access and use it anywhere on any internet-connected device. Let it be laptops at home or mobile phones. The data will not be restricted only to office computers. The only requirement is the proper access credentials.
2. AffordabilityEmbed from Getty Images
Let’s say the software for the business has bought can run on a basic computer with low RAM, CPU, etc. However, what if the business requirement starts demanding heavy usage of this software, maybe due to more customers? The owners had no option but to buy a new expensive computer. Also, the old computer might also get outdated soon. So, it’s a liability loss.
On the other hand, in the case of cloud computing, the services are need-based. The size of the virtual servers, the accessibility of the software, etc., can be customized with premium costs. This way, the cost of infrastructure can be saved.
3. Work remains on the same pageEmbed from Getty Images
With cloud computing, all the work, say on one project, remains visible to all the concerned people. Further, the work from a particular person gets synced for all, which is extremely helpful for getting input from others and avoiding mistakes. The work, in this way, remains up-to-date for all.
4. Remote-work friendlyEmbed from Getty Images
Businesses often rely on specialized software. The employees may not have these on their personal computers at home. Being online always, cloud computing can be used to access this software from anywhere. Also the data can also be accessed from anywhere. Many businesses are trying to push their employees offline based on this.
5. Scale-Up And Scale-Down
Since the software and IT infrastructure is only subscription-based, the capacities of the subscribed facilities can be upgraded and downgraded anytime. Otherwise, the offline machines would become dormant! This is a significant cost-efficient advantage of cloud computing.
Needless to emphasize, the data, software, etc., are always in comparatively safer hands compared to the local facility of the user.
The cloud-computing has several challenges, too. Let us see some of them
Challenges of using Cloud Computing
1. CompliancesEmbed from Getty Images
Imagine a hotel uploading customer feedback to a server Vs. a hospital uploading the details of patients. While the former might not be a big issue, the latter may have privacy concerns. Therefore, several government regulations handle such data on the cloud.
Although the service providers, being in business, are usually aware of such rules, the entire responsibility lies with the companies. As per a source, nearly 45% of businesses using the cloud find it hard to comply with such regulations (link).
2. Security ConcernsEmbed from Getty Images
As per a survey in 2021, almost 64% of the users ( who replied ) found that data breaches, data privacy, confidentiality, accidental exposure of login credentials, etc., are the biggest security concerns. Of course, with the advent of technology, issues such as simple biometrics are being addressed.
3. Requirement of trained peopleEmbed from Getty Images
Small companies may not have employees knowing the ABC of cloud computing. Further, the employees may also resist changing their working styles. So, proper training is necessary.
4. Internet Connectivity ConcernsEmbed from Getty Images
While internet plans are becoming cheap day by day, there are several places where connectivity is slow or unavailable due to a lack of proper infrastructure. This may cause several interruptions while working.
For instance, you might have heard banks and ATMs not functioning due to the issue of ‘server down,’ which is precisely this issue.
5. Lack of transparencyEmbed from Getty Images
While it is true that the cost of infrastructure drastically goes down for businesses, often, they cannot get a complete overview of the processes. For example, the traditional user may get to see how and where their data is being processed.
Being a relatively new technology, cloud computing has several advantages and challenges. Small companies have gradually shifted from paper-based data management habits to digital and, eventually, cloud-based facilities. The governments of various countries are pushing small businesses towards it by providing incentives to them. For example, the digital India scheme from the government of India.
Nonetheless, a slow and gradual change in service providers and improvement in digital literacy, in general, will further push the rapid use of cloud computing in such businesses.