How "the Cloud" can empower your small business

Jim Blasingame
One of the greatest products of human society is the marketplace. Webster defines it as a place where goods and services are offered for sale. 
 
Over millennia, innovations took markets from local to global, and now to the 21st century iteration - virtual. Virtual markets are powered by "cloud computing," aka "the cloud," and accessed via the Internet and a handy interface program presented on a screen of some size.
 
Historically, as trade expanded markets, products led the way because services were difficult to convey to the last mile of consumption. But technology has helped services catch up, and now digital services are delivered efficiently from the cloud. And more than anything else, this last reality is helping small businesses compete and grow in ways that were formerly the domain of larger companies.  
 
Here are five cloud-based resource categories that help your small business operate more efficiently, competitively, and profitably.
 
1.  Processing power
Robust software can be purchased incrementally and accessed as needed. Advantages include increased capability, most recent updates and expensing instead of capitalizing.
 
2.  Information power
Cloud-based communication, customer development, community building and financial applications help small businesses acquire and manage information quickly and strategically. 
 
3.  Sales power
Cloud-based e-commerce has never been easier or more cost-effective for small businesses to offer, sell, and even deliver products and services 24/7/365.
 
4.  Talent power
More and more, 21st century jobs don't require employees to be under the nose of management. Cloud-based employee search capability improves candidate acquisition, and cloud-based communication and collaboration tools help virtual working relationships succeed.
 
5.  Asset protection power
Business assets used to be largely tangible, like inventory, equipment, etc.  Today all businesses are increasingly creating opportunity from intangible assets. But for small businesses, protecting intangible, digital assets has been problematic. Cloud-based data back-up services work automatically, securely, productively and cost-effectively.
 
As useful and productive as cloud computing is, it isn't without weaknesses. For example, when you learn of cyber-breaches like the ones that happened to Yahoo! and Equifax, those were cloud breaches. We'll leave the big guys to their own cloud security chores. Out here on Main Street, your worst cloud security weakness is you - and your people. The humans in your business. The strong passwords, firewalls, anti-virus programs, etc. in the world won't save you if someone on your network opens a phishing email, or similar e-bomb. What's the solution? Training. Reminding. And continuous reminding about what to click on and what not to click on. 
 
The bad news is the cyber-criminals are moving down market. They've arrived on Main Street, but not with real people - just computers using algorithms to attack any dummy who answers an automated ping. Essentially, if you don't let one of these guys in, they won't get in.
 
It's likely that most small businesses use cloud resources more than they realize - which is a good thing.  But with all of the cloud power available, every small business should become more aware of how to use cloud-based services and seek these options for their growth and profitability strategies.
 
Write this on a rock ... Power your marketplace performance with the cloud.
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