For small businesses, cloud computing hits a particular sweet spot. With cloud services, small businesses reap the benefits of not having to deploy physical infrastructure like file and e-mail servers, storage systems or shrink-wrapped software. Plus, the "anywhere, anytime" availability of these solutions, means hassle-free collaboration between business partners and employees by simply using a browser. In fact, it's not a stretch to say that aside from a locally installed desktop operating system and browser, a lot of today's small business technology needs can be fulfilled almost completely with cloud-based offerings.
Cloud-computing fees for businesses are typically subscription-based. The vendors usually charge you on a month-to-month or annual basis. The solutions we feature here are relatively affordable and follow the subscription model.
Another feature of cloud computing is that it's easily scalable. Many of these solutions can work for a business with five employees or 5,000. Cloud-based service is nimble because it grows as your business grows.
For better or for worse, cloud-computing is the technology of the future. Just ask Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, who recently said that seventy percent of Microsoft employees are doing something at least related to cloud computing; in a year, that figure will be ninety percent. While some (such as PCMag's crankiest geek, John Dvorak) think Microsoft should abandon cloud computing, the rest of the industry is pushing forward. Although cloud computing is not without concerns about security, stability, and data ownership, at its best it allows businesses to unshackle day-to-day operations from the local datacenter. Cloud computing is helping to shape today's truly mobile workforce.