The buzz in the tech world right now is all about “The Cloud.” But what is it, and what does it mean for small business?

Cloud computing is a catch-all term for using off-site (internet-based) farms of computers to handle processing and file storage. It’s been touted as the way forward for years, but only recently have serious options become available for small businesses. Today we’ll take a brief look at this storage solution, and show how it can help you expand your business while avoiding large IT costs.

The general idea of cloud storage is that a huge bank of computers sitting somewhere on the Internet handles the storage for all your files, just like an enormous hard drive or network drive. The big benefit to small business of storing your files in the cloud is that you don’t have to buy new computers, servers, or hard disks for your office, and you can grow your business without your storage needs requiring an IT department.

Amazon is the biggest player in cloud computing at this time, and offers a huge range of possibilities through Amazon Web Services. S3 stands for Simple Storage Service, which is Amazon’s ever-expanding data storage hub that allows you to use unlimited storage for a very reasonable cost. Up until now S3 has only been used by developers, but with the advent of new services such as CloudPointe you can very easily add unlimited data storage to your website or intranet, and forget all about the management. You just keep throwing files at it, and Amazon will keep expanding its network to handle it, providing you with a regular bill for the storage.

Cloud storage is potentially even more secure than running your own servers, as a service such as Amazon’s S3 comes with a service level agreement and a team of professionals to manage security and availability. If you use a service like CloudPointe, you can combine your existing file storage with SharePoint, S3, Google Docs, and more without having to go through a migration process — and once you’re set up, you have infinite storage space without the hassle.

S3 offers security through encrypted authentication, and provides higher availability guarantees than any small business would be able to match (99.999999999% durability and 99.99% availability). It also has safety features such as Raid and backup, along with versioning, so you can go back to previous revisions of files should you ever need to. If you have data that’s not quite as mission-critical, you can even choose a reduced redundancy option to lower your costs.

With businesses emerging and moving faster than ever, streamlining your business collaboration and data management so you don’t waste time on IT issues is invaluable. With standard pricing of $0.100 per gigabyte or less for reduced redundancy, and $0.150 for high availability, switching to cloud storage is a no-brainer.

In future blog posts we’ll take a look a number of Amazon’s other cloud computing services, and see some examples of how they can be used to upscale your business.

Image via nogoudfwete / Shutterstock

Tags: small business
A writer and software developer of more than 14 years experience, Toby is passionate about helping new and small businesses make the most of the internet and cloud technology. When he's not writing or telling stories he's busy trying to make technology easier to use for the average business person, and can often be found in dark corners practicing magic tricks or lock sport.

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