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When it Comes to Your Business, it’s Not if You Should Take Advantage of Cloud-Computing, it’s How You Should.

By Gene Marks, President of The Marks Group

Even after all of these years of hearing about the "cloud," it's understandable if you're still not entirely sure what it means for your business. Lots of tech people will give you various definitions of what the cloud means, but it's not really as difficult—or as confusing—as they may make it seem. To me, the cloud is just the Internet. And because access to the Internet has become so much easier and faster over the years, we're able to store our data just about anywhere and access our data from just about any device.

When you can store and access data nearly anywhere on any device, that's using the cloud. In 2015, the cloud is everywhere and when it comes to your business you have a big decision to make: it's not if you should take advantage of the cloud, it's how you should. When making this decision, you have three options.

Option 1: You're all in
When you decide to use exclusively cloud-based applications, I call it the "all in" cloud. No software is installed locally. All of your data is outside of your company. Your applications—be they accounting, customer relationship management, order entry, or banking—are all driven by software that was written specifically for the cloud. Your employees are doing their work through their browsers (and sometimes a smartphone app). You have chosen this option because you are a startup, your organization is virtual, most of your employees are spread around the world, or you just got tired of maintaining servers and data in-house. You're happy to pay monthly fees to the companies who are delivering all of their software and services through the cloud. In other words … you're all in.


The cloud is everywhere and when it comes to your business you have a big decision to make: it's not if you should take advantage of the cloud, it's how you should.

Option 2: You're hybrid
If you're "hybrid," it means you're still using many of the same desktop or server applications that you've used all along, except that you've moved them to someone else's server, and you and your people are accessing these systems remotely. You're probably using something like Windows Remote Desktop (or a similar thin-client capability) to do this. You still own your software like before because it works fine and you have little desire to migrate to an entirely new system. You're paying a monthly fee not for the software, but for the service provided by the hosting company that is making sure everything is secure, running smoothly, and backed up. Nothing's really changed except that instead of getting information from your internal server, employees access the same data and software from someone else's server that you're merely renting. You're not all in, but you're definitely using the cloud to your advantage. It's a hybrid choice.

Option 3: You're on-premises
You still have a server in-house. Your software systems are still the same. You've made no changes to your infrastructure. But you've probably created your own internal cloud using something like Windows Remote Desktop. That way your people can access all the same things they're used to accessing in the office from just about any device and from almost anywhere where there's an Internet connection. Instead of getting this information from somebody else's server, they're getting it directly from your server. This is because you have no desire to spend the money and incur the additional work of changing your systems and you don't care to put your data outside of your company, but you do want to take advantage of the remote capabilities of the cloud.

Bigger companies have even more complex cloud-delivery choices for their systems, but you and I aren't running bigger companies. We're running small- or midmarket-sized organizations, so these are our choices for now. They're good choices because however you decide to tap into it, you'll find your people are more productive, more mobile, and happier than they were before the cloud.

Gene Marks, President of The Marks Group, is also a CPA and columnist for publications, including Forbes, Entrepreneur.com, and Inc.com, among others. He writes daily about small business public policy for The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @genemarks.

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