We can always rely on my associates in the computer business to name everything with either an unpronounceable acronym (LAN, WAN, VoIP, ad nauseum) or with something vaguely effeminate (cloud, tweet and so forth). First and foremost, you need to understand that "cloud" is just another name for the Internet.
The name originated from the practice of drawing a simple cloud shape to denote any part of a computer network diagram that we did not have to worry about. So, your area of responsibility was detailed with every wire labeled and computer described. Everything outside your network could just be explained away with the cloud drawing. This is similar to the practice of ancient mapmakers who would draw dragons in uncharted areas of the map. The cloud was simply our lazy way of saying Here Be Dragons for our computer network; said simply: we don't know and we don't care.
However, with the advent of high speed Internet connections and advances in web programming, we can now use the Internet to distribute powerful software tools for all users. Cloud computing is built on utility computing; though many believe they are the same thing. Cloud computing is also a metered utility service which allows you to pay for software as a service, meaning you only buy what you need.
The greatest advantage to cloud computing is you no longer need to worry about keeping your software up-to-date and software license compliance. Most cloud computing providers will give you new features and updates as part of your normal subscription. This means you have constant access to new features and updates without having to pay more money or manage software licenses.
The other advantage is you do not have to maintain the infrastructure. Computer servers are expensive and so are the technicians needed to maintain them. Let the cloud computing provider handle the hardware; this lets you focus on growing your business. As any accountant will tell you, renting software is a better option than the capital expenditures involved.
For example, Wired Gecko provides preventative PC care. Using the Internet, Wired Gecko will monitor all your computers to catch failures before they interrupt your business. You must break out of the old Break-Fix cycle where you waste time and money waiting for your computer tech to repair a damaged PC. Take control of the relationship and tell your tech what needs to be repaired before it breaks. This lets you schedule the tech's time so that it doesn't interrupt your work. You have to admit, it's a smarter way to work.
Allmoxy offers a fantastic suite of products that can provide nearly everything your small business could need. From customer service to inventory management, Allmoxy delivers a great set of tools for "businesses that make stuff, move things, and get dirty."
The downside of cloud computing is you can only access these services when you have Internet access. The other concern is access to your information since your data is now residing on their computers. You must be sure there is an easy way for you to secure a copy of information if you should need it. You should also check and be sure that the provider offers solid backup and redundancy. If you are in the medical, legal, banking or other regulated industry, you will want to be sure that your cloud software vendor is in full compliance.
Cloud computing is an excellent way to control your software costs. It also allows you the freedom to work from anywhere there is an Internet-enabled computer. While there are some dangers, the benefits are substantial. Cloud computing should become part of your business especially if it sharpens your competitive edge.