Why you should base your small business in the cloud
If you want to run your start-up remotely or start a business from home then a virtual office in the cloud offers an easy solution with no overheads
What is ‘the cloud’?
The cloud refers to cloud computing. Cloud computing is the storing and accessing of data and programmes over the internet, rather than through your computer’s hard drive.
Dropbox, NetSuite, and Google Drive are examples of popular cloud-based software solutions that start-ups and small businesses often use to make their virtual office a reality.
In the UK, businesses of all shapes and sizes have embraced cloud computing, from established brands such as Pret a Manger and YouGov to fast-growth companies such as Deliveroo and Charlotte Tilbury.
To cloud or not to cloud?
As technology evolves, small businesses and start-ups need to be online. However, moving to the cloud and creating a virtual office from an established office set-up isn’t right for every business and it will depend on several factors that we will explore in this article.
The benefits of moving to a virtual office
Moving your business to the cloud, and therefore a virtual office, is an ideal solution if you want to start a business from home or want to transform your existing business so that you work collaboratively in an online team space. At Startups.co.uk, our team of journalists are often on the move and need to work remotely with access to all files so operating in the cloud offers a perfect solution.
If you want to embrace a virtual office with your employees then operating remotely will cut overheads and save you money. But, making a big change like this requires a great level of trust.
You will need to ensure that your employees can motivate themselves while working from home and/or remotely so it’s advised that you start from a position of regular and transparent task sharing and progress reports from the outset. You can then loosen the reins once your team has settled into a pattern of working.
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If you’re considering starting a business from scratch then the cloud offers obvious benefits, such as:
- You can set up your new business quickly with minimal costs – All of your data including your emails, correspondence, legal documents, plans etc. are there for you to access at any time you want or need
- You can move and change the direction of your business without incurring extra overheads
- You have a disaster recovery plan – For instance if you suffered a fire or flood at home or in the office, with your work and applications stored in the cloud you can always pitch up at another location and continue working immediately with minimum down time for your business.
It is well documented that around half of all UK start-ups fail in their first year of trading, so keeping your outlay down by operating from a virtual office will also take away some cash-flow pressure. You’ll have fewer physical assets to offload on the chance that your business doesn’t work out as well.
Financially it makes a lot of sense for certain types of business to work in the cloud and operationally there are huge benefits too. Nobody will be able access your files or move files around while you’re out (unless you are working collaboratively in a team, and even then, there will be a record of what they have done).
Plus, you won’t forget to take any files, such as a vital presentation or pitch deck, with you to a client or investor meeting because you’ll always have access online.
Working in the cloud: Considerations and potential risks
While there are undeniable benefits to running a virtual office in the cloud, the main drawback is that you could end up crippled if you can’t get online.
Beyond that, the key criticism of working in the cloud is that security is a concern and you should look to protect your business from potential cloud-based security issues.
To achieve this, before committing to operate a virtual office and saving your valuable private data in the cloud, you should check the credentials of cloud service providers and read plenty of reviews to ensure you choose the best cloud service available. All good cloud service providers should have encryption and security details clearly displayed on their website.
Likewise, the majority of mainstream providers will have high-level defences in place and there are often add-ons available if you want to take more precautions to protect your data.
If you’re wary of operating in the cloud from the outset, then you could always keep certain private aspects of your business on your desktop while you start to build trust in cloud suppliers with more trivial office files.
3 top tips for basing your small business in the cloud:
- Research cloud service providers and check their credentials before making a commitment.
- Understand the benefits of operating in the cloud; from accessing your data anywhere at any time to having an immediate recovery plan should disaster strike.
- Make sure you have a progress plan in place to keep your team motivated and working hard if you switch your established office set-up to a virtual office.