Cloud Computing for Small Businesses: A Detailed Guide

If you are a small business owner, you surely understand how important it is to combine scalability and efficiency of operations with secure data hosting. Cloud computing in small business is a perfect way to bring in more regulation and control while maintaining a high level of security and accessibility of your software. 

However, some business owners hesitate to adopt it as they fear the costs and the overall complexity of the implementation process. In this article, we explain the importance of cloud computing for small business, how to implement it in a hassle-free manner, and what providers to consider.

Cloud Computing for Small Businesses: A Detailed Guide

What is cloud computing?

The official Amazon Web Services website provides the simplest definition of cloud computing: it is an on-demand delivery of IT services and resources via the Internet. These resources can include storage, servers, databases, and even software for app development. In this way, you can transfer your core IT processes to the cloud and enjoy the multiple benefits this approach brings (more on this later).

The most common uses of cloud computing are:

  • Storage: you can store all needed data in the cloud and access it anytime and from any device. This storage also enables effective data synchronization and easier collaboration since multiple users can access a single file simultaneously. And if you need an example, think of Google Drive or Dropbox that can be used by both individual users and companies for corporate purposes.
  • Backup: considering the rise of cyberattacks and the cost of a data breach or data leak, it is vital for companies to do data backups and keep them in a secured location. Cloud backup services offer an impressive level of security and let you securely store and recover your data. Though being similar to storage services, such backup is a bit different. This option is often included in most cloud storage services.
  • Hosting: unlike traditional web hosting on a physical server, cloud hosting implies using virtual space for hosting your application. This approach has numerous advantages, such as perfect uptime, high scalability, and payment only for the services in use.
  • SaaS: with Software as a Service, companies can make advantage of ready-made software solutions available via the Internet. Examples of SaaS solutions include Salesforce or QuickBooks Online, when a company gets access to rich functionality of a specific solution without the need to develop and update it. 

Main types of cloud service models

Though there is a big variety of cloud solutions, they can be divided into three main categories according to their type and services provided: infrastructure, platform, SaaS. Let’s look at each in detail:

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): IaaS enables companies to manage their resources (networks, storage, virtual machines, etc.) in the cloud. In this way, a company does not have to buy hardware and can build its infrastructure in the cloud instead. The biggest benefit of IaaS is that you pay only for the services that you use. Hence, as your business grows, you scale the workload and resources accordingly, also being able to downsize whenever you need to. The biggest providers of IaaS services are Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS): PaaS helps developers build applications directly in the cloud through the use of a specialized platform – hence, the name PaaS. Platform as a Service provides APIs, gateway software, and other tools needed to create an effective app. Think of PaaS as of a miniaturized version of IaaS but for developers. Examples of PaaS are Apprenda and Google App Engine.
  • Software as a Service (SaaS): Software as a Service is probably the most well-known cloud service model and is actively used by both individuals and companies. SaaS is cloud-based software that is available for use over the Internet, either for a purchase or on a subscription basis. Users can also install a SaaS product on their devices, if needed, which adds to its convenience. The most prominent SaaS examples are Adobe Creative Cloud and Google Docs.

As you can see, cloud computing offers users a vast array of available services. These services can be combined or used separately, thus enabling companies to select a perfect model that would work the best for their goals.

Main types of cloud storage

One more thing to talk about is cloud storage – more specifically, its main types. It is important to consider this factor when selecting the right provider since the choice will impact the security of your data and even your app’s performance:

  • Public: this storage type is the most common one due to its low costs, great scalability, and high reliability. Public cloud means that all infrastructure is owned and operated by a provider. So when an organization uses a public cloud, it shares resources with other organizations. Despite that, public clouds are usually very reliable and secure.
  • Private: private cloud resources are used exclusively by one organization. You can host it either on site or delegate hosting to a provider. The biggest advantage of using a private cloud is a high level of customization and security, as well as full control over all available resources.
  • Hybrid: as the name implies, a hybrid cloud is a mix between public and private clouds. Hybrid cloud allows moving your data and apps between the two environments, which adds to better security and better regulatory compliance.

The main benefits of cloud computing for small businesses

For small business, cloud computing brings the next significant advantages: 

Greater scalability

Since the cloud is not limited in its capacity, it offers businesses unparalleled scalability. It is especially beneficial for small businesses, as they normally see rapid growth in the beginning of their lifecycle and need to adjust resources correspondingly. With the cloud, you won’t only be able to scale up and down but will also be able to tailor the budget correspondingly. 

Reduced costs in the long run

Many small business owners are taken aback by the initial cost of cloud computing services. However, in the long run, this investment tends to bring a high ROI since you will be spending only on the resources in use and will be able to effectively scale. In this way, you don’t need to pay for the hardware and network infrastructure as well as for maintenance and patching (in most cases). 

High accessibility

High accessibility is also among the top benefits of cloud computing for small businesses. Companies can use any preferred device to access their apps and data in the cloud via the Internet, which is a big benefit when it comes to collaboration and need for quick decision-making. The only challenge here is to assign proper credentials to all potential users and monitor levels of access to prevent potential attacks and threats.

Improved collaboration

Related to the point above, cloud computing helps companies improve collaboration between different departments and users since the data is centralized and available to anyone with corresponding credentials. Hence, employees can work on a single project simultaneously, leave real-time comments, and easily exchange information and feedback.

Disaster recovery

Cloud backup is one of the most reliable ways of saving your data in case of a data loss or any other emergency. By storing backups in the cloud, organizations can easily recover it if needed and rest assured that there is always a copy of the data stored securely. This is highly important as the number of cyberattacks increases at an annual rate and requires companies to establish multi-level security.

Main challenges and considerations of cloud computing

Despite its notable benefits, cloud computing may also bring in certain challenges that are especially important for small businesses. Below, we list the biggest ones that you need to consider and plan their resolution in advance.

Reliance on Internet connectivity

One of the biggest drawbacks of cloud computing is its full reliance on Internet connectivity. So in case of an emergency when the Internet goes off, the whole functioning of the app can be disrupted. Slow or unstable connection will also significantly decrease the productivity of your team and may even result in errors and downtimes. 

To prevent that, make sure that your Internet connection is secure and stable, though don’t forget to have a plan B in case the Internet goes off. That means, you need to have physical backups in place and a recovery plan to get your app up and running as soon as the Internet is back again.


Another big consideration is security of cloud solutions, since some of them are fully hosted and managed by a third-party service provider. This means, a business owner may not have full control over the cloud and its internal processes and in case of a security breach, most of the app might be at risk.

This concern is not entirely true, though. Numerous studies confirm that businesses experience better security in the cloud than on-premises. In addition, big cloud providers like Amazon and Microsoft place utmost importance on security and establish robust security measures to prevent potential attacks and threats.

There is one more thing to keep in mind when talking about cloud security. Most providers operate by the shared responsibility model, meaning that both the provider and the business owner need to establish security measures and take the responsibility for a specific part of the app’s security. Hence, before adopting cloud, you need to study how exactly the provider maintains security and what will be requited from your side.

Need for employee training

Another consideration that may stop small business owners from adopting cloud is the need for employee training, which implies investing a certain amount of time, effort, and finances in the process. While some may hesitate to spend time on training, especially if their business environment is highly dynamic and busy, it is an essential step. Proper training sets a solid base for the uninterrupted work process in the future and helps prevent those issues and threats that occur due to employees’ lack of knowledge.

How to implement cloud computing services for small businesses?

Though the process of adopting cloud will be individual for every organization, there are several basic steps that one can use as a baseline for an adoption strategy. You can think of them as of a checklist and adjust accordingly to your business processes and needs. The steps for implementing cloud computing for small businesses are as follows:

Identify and assess your current business needs

Implementation of any new software solution should start with the question “Why?”. That means, you need to understand why exactly the software is needed and what existing problem / pain point it can resolve. 

Based on the answers, you will be able to identify what key features are needed in a solution and whether you really need one. In other words, you will identify what exact cloud computing services for small business will resolve your current challenge. Sometimes, organizations simply need several on-premises improvements to optimize their processes – hence, perform a feasibility study to make sure that you really need a cloud solution.

Evaluate your current assets and infrastructure

The next step of adopting a cloud technology for small business is evaluating your readiness for migration and the state of current assets, such as infrastructure, software dependencies, etc. The main goal of this step is to understand whether the whole app should be moved to the cloud and whether any features need to be added/removed. Also, you might want to reorganize your current app architecture, so the migration process goes smoothly.

Create a migration strategy

Now, a company needs to prepare a solid migration plan that normally includes the following steps:

  • Select the suitable storage model and the provider
  • Prioritize the existing apps and evaluate their complexity in order to define the migration order
  • Estimate migration complexity and the available budget
  • Identify the app migration order 

All these things need to be taken into account in advance, so the migration process goes smoothly and does not disrupt the operation of your business.

Prepare the selected cloud environment

Once you selected the needed cloud, you can’t just move your apps in there. First, you need to prepare the selected environment and configure it in accordance with your needs. That includes two main vectors: architecture design and security and compliance for cloud resources.

The main things to focus on when working on the architecture are scalability and disaster recovery, since you want your app to be stable, secure, and resilient. As for the security, we recommend implementing the core best practices like data encryption or least privilege approach to make sure that your app and the data are well protected.

Migrate the app and the data

The last step of the cloud adoption process is the actual migration of your apps and the data to the selected cloud. It is important to perform the migration gradually, starting with the least critical apps and closely monitoring their performance. After the migration is completed, you will need to perform a post-migration optimization and assessment (like metrics monitoring) to timely identify and resolve any possible issues with the app’s performance.

Cloud computing best practices

Now that we are clear about the benefits of cloud computing and the way you can implement it, we should also discuss its best practices. The tips listed below are commonly used across organizations to improve the performance of their solution and to ensure that it remains stable and reliable, as well as cost-effective.

Create backups and plan a recovery strategy

Despite being highly secure, the cloud is still prone to cyberattacks – so what can you do to ensure your app and the data remain intact?

The biggest advice we can give here is to create data backups (preferably physical) and plan an actionable recovery strategy in case of an emergency. Hence, if anything goes wrong, you will be able not only to retrieve the data but to get your business up and running in a relatively short time.

Perform regular security audits

Taking into consideration the complexity of cloud security and the ongoing evolution of cyber threats, it is important to regularly perform security audits and vulnerability checks. The cost of preventing or mitigating a vulnerability at an early stage is much lower than its remediation, hence it’s in your best interest to monitor the security of your cloud solution and apply needed security measures immediately.

Optimize costs

Once you select the perfect solution among various cloud applications for small business, it doesn’t mean you will have to pay the same amount of money every time you renew your subscription. The best part of operating in the cloud is the opportunity to optimize your spendings precisely in accordance with resources in use. Here are a few tips on that:

  • Take a proactive approach towards rightsizing your resources;
  • Monitor any occurring cost anomalies;
  • Select the right type of storage;
  • Get rid of unused EBS snapshots (if you use AWS);
  • Automate the rightsizing of your infrastructure.

Consider multi-cloud approach

A multicloud approach implies using several different cloud tools to achieve greater efficiency and distribute work processes among various platforms. The biggest advantage of this strategy is that you avoid vendor lock-in and use the most suitable solutions for different tasks. However, the use of several clouds also implies more complex cloud management and security, so keep that in mind.

Implement DevOps and automation

We highly recommend adopting DevOps and deployment automation for faster app delivery and a reduced number of human errors. The DevOps approach brings immense transparency and efficiency to the app development process, while deployment automation helps deliver apps faster and with a minimized number of errors.

Constantly monitor key metrics

You need to constantly monitor performance metrics such as latency or throughput to optimize the cloud and remove existing bottlenecks in a timely manner. By always knowing how well your app performs and what resources are currently in use, you will be able to rightsize effectively while also improving user experience.

Summing up

Cloud computing for small business is a great way to grow in a gradual manner and to improve the stability and security of their apps. However, the adoption of cloud computing is a significant investment and needs to be considered and planned in advance. At SoftTeco, we have extensive experience working with the biggest providers like Amazon and Microsoft. Hence, we offer companies our cloud consulting services to help you determine what will work best for you and how exactly you should implement it. So if you still wonder how can cloud computing help small businesses or need help in selecting a perfect solution, we will gladly help!

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