5 ways my small business benefits from the cloud

We have talked a lot about cloud computing recently here on the pages of BetaNews. That's not surprising since it is one of the fastest growing segments of the tech industry today. Missing, however: A more personal story on how we're using the cloud in our day-to-day business.

I run a small freelance writing and media consulting business out of my home, Oz Media Inc. While being my own boss is fun, it also requires me to be owner, CEO, CFO, IT administrator, and employee. It's a company of one. Cloud computing has definitely paid off and made running my business a lot easier, and here's why.

1. Cloud computing reduces my technology expenses. I do not have a large budget, nor room for error when it comes to technology purchases. I can buy only what I truly, truly need, and this is common across every small business. If I can push something to the cloud, say backups or files which I've done with iCloud it is generally much cheaper than purchasing physical hardware and has freed up revenue for other necessary expenses.

In fact, the iCloud free storage at 5GB is enough to store a good majority of my work file backups. That's a huge benefit.

How much money am I saving as a result of the cloud? It's difficult to quantify, but I would venture to guess in my small outfit it's into the hundreds if not thousands every year. That is more profit in my pocket, which is the ultimate goal of any business owner (see #5 for some specifics).

2. My data is accessible anywhere. Going "to the cloud" gives me mobility. As I've expanded out to a multi-device solution -- desktop, laptop, and tablet -- I am running into issues about data being on one device but not the others. Using the cloud allows me to start the work on one and finish it on another.

I write some of my stories using Google Docs. I can submit them to my editors wherever they may be and we can collaborate on the document in real time, saving a good deal of time over sending edits via email.

3. I scale my IT needs as needed. The great thing about depending on the cloud for your IT needs is the fact that there isn't a commitment. When you buy hardware and software, there is a set price you pay whether you use it until you break it, or once and never again. With cloud services, the choice is there to stop using something you don't need at any time, and limit costs.

For example, before I could afford QuickBooks software, I used a combination of Freshbooks and Outright to handle the tracking of invoicing and bookkeeping. Together these two services cost me less than $10 per month.

4. It's a breeze to manage. Large-scale IT deployments require an administrator to keep everything in tip-top shape. In small businesses, you're a man with many hats. Cloud services have made managing aspects of my business, like collaboration services (Google Apps), easy enough for somebody who isn't a true expert on IT. More money saved.

5. It's platform independent. As stated previously, I run several devices. Here's the thing though -- these devices run three different platforms. The desktop is a Mac, the laptop a Dell, and the tablet an iPad. Cloud services like Google Apps are platform agnostic, which eliminates the need for multiple versions of software for the same program.

Let's use productivity software as an example here. If I had to purchase the software for each of the platforms, it would cost me $60 for the Mac for iWork, $30 for iWork for the iPad, and at least $150 for Microsoft Office for the Dell if it was not included already. That's $240 for software -- and with Google Docs, which works on every platform, its completely free.

This short list doesn't cover all the benefits to working in the cloud. I'd like to open this up to other small business owners who are using the cloud in their day-to-day work, though. What are the biggest benefits for you? Let us know in the comments.

Photo Credit: Digital Storm/Shutterstock

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