(Also see the page on Cloud Storage)
The term is popularly used in conjunction with terms such as Cloud Storage, Office365, Google Docs, Google Apps, Drop Box and One Drive. However, the Cloud Storage element of each of the products on offer can be very different.
The first step is to consider what you want to achieve with the implementation of a cloud solution. As with most things in business this is usually cost driven, even a very small business can incur IT costs. A computer, a printer, Word Processor software, Spreadsheet software and Internet Connection all cost money and this increases dramatically when business grows to the extent that multiple computers and networking start to become a requirement. It becomes tempting then to look further when slick advertising offers the ability to cut cost or dramatically increase productivity by delivering the ability to work from anywhere on any device. This is especially so when the same solutions offer the opportunity to reduce the need to own, licence and maintain an estate of servers. The possible reduction in cost of IT alone would probably be sufficient to make the business case.
Similarly for the very small business, the facility for, say a plumber, to be able to access an appointments diary, quotation records, invoice records, customer records and even place on-line orders for materials from his van at a customer address, at the same time as reducing computer hardware and software costs makes the case for further investigation.
Examining the Market Place
Every company is unique, therefore the business case to be made for a Cloud Solution implementation will also be unique. There may be a temptation at this point to engage a consultant or advisor. However, it is still too early in the process to invest in a study. Better at this point to make an attempt to understand the basics of the solutions on offer. This will require a time and effort investment, but it will be well worth while.
No one knows your business as well as you do and no one knows what will work and what will not. Early engagement of external experts or even a complete solution usually results in the solution being twisted to meet the needs of your company, often when there is a more suitable solution to be had.
Cloud Solutions are unique in offering a very low cost, pay-for-what-you-use entry point. As there is no high cost initial investment and no long term contractual commitment you can test different solutions in different environments to discover the best implementation for each business scenario. Cloud Solutions are also aimed at implementation by business administrators and not IT staff. With the exception of overall governance and the maintenance of PCs and mobile devices IT personnel need not be involved. There are also many internet resources available to help in trialling.
Take your time and you will discover new ways to improve your business.