In Both Sides Now, Joni Mitchell wrote:
“I really don’t know clouds at all”
The Cloud should not be a mystery. Even though it sounds fluffy and undefined, you’re probably using the cloud many times daily. A Google search is using the cloud. Your Facebook or LinkedIn account is in the cloud. If you use online bill payment through your bank, that’s a cloud service. And if you’re a Cornerstone customer, you’re using our private cloud to manage your subscriber accounts.
Cloud computing is simply using an internet-based computer or server to accomplish something. As the US economy continues to struggle, small businesses should be looking at the cloud as an amazing opportunity to:
- Lower costs
- Increase sales
- Improve productivity, or
- All of the above
How Cornerstone Uses the Cloud
We use cloud services to upload debit and credit card transactions for our dealers. Our allies are specialists that have built secure portals that eliminate many hours of staff time here, and provide for powerful reporting that let us quickly do our work and troubleshoot payment issues. These services really allow us to grow faster, because they allow us to focus on our core business — database management and hosted software support for our dealers.
In the end, these alliances have made it less expensive for us to deliver our services at the quality levels our customers have come to expect. It’s no different for security dealers. If you look, you WILL find cloud-based accountants, billing services, payroll services, document management services, hosted access control and video, and many others. Central stations are really ‘private cloud’ services like ours, and are increasingly updating their hosted service offerings or aligning themselves with cloud companies that end up being an extension of their monitoring centers.
The Risks of Cloud Computing
Of course, cloud services can involve risks. Security in the cloud is critical, but reputable cloud service companies (including Cornerstone) spend a great deal of money and time keeping the system and software locked down. Worries that “my data is ‘out there’, not on my local computer” have been addressed by most cloud-based services. In our case, you can export and email yourself all the key reports, so you can have that data locally in Excel. Good cloud services should give you a similar option – I would never want my critical data being ‘held for ransom’, and I’d never subject our dealers to that same risk.
The Benefits of the Cloud
Bottom line, cloud services – carefully chosen – should save you money, or add to your top line. In some cases, these services can help you offload certain tasks to specialists who can handle them better, and often cheaper. In other cases, these services can expand and enhance what you’re able to offer your customers – adding revenue, reducing attrition, or making your customer relationships ‘stickier.’
How are you using cloud based services in your business?