Have you heard of “cloud computing”? Whereas in the past the electronic operations of businesses have run from office servers, they can now be run on-line. Businesses are therefore spared the costs of computer hardware and employing IT programmers to design and set up their computer systems. Web entrepreneur Darren Fell (and founder of website freelanceadvisor.co.uk) developed his fully automated online accounting service Crunch at a fraction of what it would have cost a decade ago. “It’s the difference between an investment of £1 million today, compared with £3 million or £5 million the old way,” he says. “We would have had to spend thousands on software, servers and the air conditioning to cool them. Now that everything is in the cloud, the business is totally scalable. We are charged on a monthly, pay-per-seat basis, which means not having to pay money up front. It has really lowered the barriers to entry.”
Through cloud computing, businesses can theoretically be run at any location where there is internet access – which is convenient in terms of flexibility, and it also means that the cost of overheads can be lowered dramatically. Myles Hantler (co-founder of icomplete) states, “We’re finding businesses working seamlessly on projects online, but working across different locations, or even just working from a number of homes without an office. It can save businesses a lot of time and energy.”
On-line services providers such as icomplete and collaborative working site Huddle also help alleviate the time and effort needed to start up and run a business (including facilitating tasks such as tax returns, networking and project work). As a result entrepreneurs and small business ventures are increasingly taking on long-established giants.
Small businesses may be struggling to thrive in the current economic and political climate, but their chances of success are being vastly improved by new developments in technology. It seems that the dark cloud over our heads is silver-lined by “cloud computing”!