The Cloud - your 24/7 business booster


Any time, any day, anywhere… your 24/7 business booster

Whether you’re a technophobe or you revel in using the latest gadgets and software, there’s no escaping the fact we now live in a world reliant on IT – and our customers expect us to be online, on demand and on the ball.

Most business owners that I speak to have a website and some form of online presence.  However, it seems there is widespread uncertainty in many about using IT to support their business and the potentially significant risk in how it is being deployed.

Let me suggest how to put your mind at rest ….

Your data – such as your customer database, electronic documentation or e-commerce information – is precious to your business.  The same is true of your ability to add or update records when your customers contact you, be it by web, email or phone.  Nowadays (sadly, perhaps, but true) few people are willing to wait for service: we live in a society demanding instant answers and confirmations.

So how do we achieve this without heavy investment, disrupting our private lives or having multiple copies of our diary?

One answer – I believe, by far the best answer – is to use a cloud-based system such as Microsoft Office 365. In one, smart move you will give yourself access to all your important information, from any device and at any time. You’ll also de-risk your business from the threat of data loss.

‘The cloud’ demystified

Before I continue, please allow me to dispel a few myths about ‘the cloud’. Many people believe it means data is floating about in the ether somewhere. It isn’t. ‘Cloud-based’ simply means using a remote server (a physical piece of IT kit which holds data and software). These remote servers are totally secure and fully backed up. They are kept in specially-designed cabinets within very safe, temperature-controlled, monitored buildings.

They are thousands of times safer than any personal computer, laptop, tablet or smart phone, any and all of which can be stolen, hacked, damaged or simply ‘give up the ghost’ at any time.

What will you gain?

Using software such as Microsoft Office 365 will afford you many business benefits.

Using a high-security log-in you’ll have full e-mail functionality, with in-built anti-virus and anti-spam filtering, and you’ll be able to create or amend documents, your diary and other important information such as documents or photographs. All this is from any computer or mobile device, (such as a tablet or smart phone), at any time. When you’re on holiday or having a day out, you can allow your stand-in to access business e-mails while still keeping an eye on all communications yourself, if you wish.

Another, vitally important benefit is secure data back-up. There’s no longer a need to worry about computer failure, flood or fire damage or your back-up drive refusing to restore your records.

The servers are UK-based, meaning they comply with the Data Protection Act and EU data protection laws, with robust privacy policies. As the data is held remotely, you’ll see the same data whether accessing it via your iPad, laptop, PC, smartphone or any other computer device.  They have 99 percent guaranteed ‘uptime’.

If you also use a simple tool like Livedrive, you can completely synchronise your data using ‘the cloud’ from any internet connection. This means synchronising between all devices, such as different PCs in separate rooms and in different locations.

if all this sounds like a dream come true, make it your reality! It’s very affordable.

Full support whenever you need it

 I’d also recommend any owner of a small business to establish IT support. Using just a phone and military-grade, secure internet access, a qualified technician can dial into your PC or another computer device (needing your permission each time) and resolve around 90 percent of software-related problems. Using IT support remotely means it’s inexpensive, fast and convenient.

Get it in place soon, rather than wait until you need it! If you don’t use it, you don’t pay; but if you do need it, it could save you a fortune – or even save your business.

Top tips

♦  Back up your data – not on tapes or disks but on a remote server (‘the cloud’)

♦  Make sure you can access your data whenever (and from wherever) you need it

♦  Know who to turn to for support when you need it. Don’t wait until you have a problem!