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5 Ways SMBs Can Save Big with the Cloud
SMBs are under constant pressure to wring as much performance as possible out of their resources, especially their IT ones. In years past, most SMBs could safely disregard cloud computing. Sure, the occasional tech startup availed themselves of Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) or had their employees use Google Docs until they could save up enough money for Microsoft Office licenses. But these days, SMBs -- even ones providing traditional, non-technology related products and services -- can’t afford to ignore the cloud.
By now, everyone knows businesses can use the cloud to back up their data, but new, innovative technologies like cloud printing, cloud storage, and Infrastructure as a Service (IAAS) are also allowing SMBs to save big bucks. Take a look at some of the top ways SMBs are saving money by turning to the cloud.
Telecommunications: In most major cities, a traditional phone contract for three phone lines and no frills can cost $150/month or more. Compare that to cloud based distributed VoIP solutions like those offered by industry leader Nextiva. For just under $100 per month, a small business can obtain unlimited long distance, four local phone numbers, one toll-free number, a virtual fax number, a virtual answering assistant, online voicemail access (plus direct-to-email voicemail transcription) and US-based tech support. As a bonus, with cloud VoIP solutions, a business owner could literally plug a compatible phone in anywhere that there’s an Internet connection and have access to his or her business phone line.
Payroll: Many SMB owners spend hours every pay period dealing with payroll headaches, or else pay an assistant $10 to $15 an hour (or a contracted CPA even more) to take the mess off their hands. Paycycle makes payroll management woes a thing of the past. Paycycle’s web software maintains a complete payroll history, automatically generates payroll related reminders and tax reports, serves as a repository for employee information (such as I-9s and W-2s), calculates state and federal tax withholdings, and either prints paychecks or makes scheduled direct deposit payments. Best of all, Paycycle can be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection. Paycycle starts at only $31/month plus $6/employee.
Cloud-based Office Software: In years past, businesses (SMBs and otherwise) would often spend anywhere from $100 to $300 per user for Microsoft Office products and thousands of dollars to set up, maintain, and back up a Microsoft Exchange server. SMB owners and purchasing managers have become accustomed to such costs and hardly bat an eye when faced with software purchases every few years or so. But the cloud has changed all of that. Microsoft recently released its Office 365 product, which allows employees full use of office software comparable to traditional MS Office applications plus an external company website for about $6 per user per month (or $72 annually).
Printing: Having provided IT support in the past for a large number of very small businesses, I can safely say that their office printer situations are often a mess. I’ve seen everything from companies with a small inkjet printer in every employee’s office to situations where owners or other employees would have to run into the office just to print an important document in color. Cloud printing services make such convoluted printer setups entirely redundant. SMBs can take advantage of HP ePrint-enabled printers to print to a single inexpensive but efficient office laser jet printer from anywhere in the world with Internet access. As difficult as it might be to believe, this means no more complicated networked printer setups or finding and installing printer drivers on every computer in a workgroup.
Energy and Infrastructure: The Cloud allows businesses to shift a significant amount of their hardware from the physical to the virtual, and that can mean substantial hardware savings along with dramatically lower electricity bills. For example, SMBs can use the cloud for data storage, voice mail, printing, company calendars, and even… entire computers.
Entire computers? Indeed. Instead of supplying every employee with a power-hungry performance PC, companies can instead give each of their employees an inexpensive, super energy efficient terminal box that connects over the Internet to a cloud-hosted virtual machine with all the software they need. Employees wouldn’t be limited to accessing their company computer at the officer either. They could easily connect to it from a home PC or laptop… from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. (Notice a pattern?)