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5 ways you're using the cloud - and didn't know it

5 Ways You're Using the Cloud - and Didn't Know It

In 2015, small businesses that moved to the cloud doubled their profits and achieved 25% additional revenue growth compared to their cloudless contemporaries.
Still for many of us, “the cloud” can seem more buzzword than reality: we may have a vague sense of what it means, but don't really understand what it means for our business. Isn't it complicated? Isn't it something only a global enterprise or savvy startup could really hope to harness?
Not any more. In fact, you're probably already using the cloud every day, without even realizing it. If you've been skeptical about the cloud in the past, read on to see the top 5 ways you're already using it—and what that could mean for your business.

You're probably using the cloud if…

1. You're transferring files

You have a file, and you want to send it to someone else. Enter online storage sites like Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneCloud. These free or low-cost services promise easy file backup and transfer, no infrastructure costs, simple interfaces, and access from anywhere with an internet connection.
Make it work for your business: These cloud storage solutions are convenient, but note that their consumer-grade services aren't designed to protect sensitive business information. The good news is that their business-level cloud and hybrid storage solutions come with the same perks mentioned above, with the addition of increased security and control. Also note that increased access creates a need for increased control of the many devices that can connect to that data.

2. You're sending email

In January through March 2015, the number of emails sent and received per day totaled more than 205 billion.[1] One of the most popular ways to use email is through webmail services like Gmail, Office365, and Yahoo Mail. These cloud email services eliminate the need for on-site servers, spam filters, and dedicated programs. One caveat: universal access to email can also mean more areas vulnerable to cyber attack[2] (read more about that here).
Make it work for your business: Promotional emails and newsletters remain a great way to reach your customers. Email is the preferred method of communicating with businesses for 69.7% of U.S. internet users.[3] One study finds that email newsletters trump the internet and mobile apps as a source of news among global executives.[4]

3. You're publishing online

From personal blogs to Yelp reviews to company websites, many of us have a web presence, and few of us host that presence ourselves. Online hosting services and publishing platforms give us an online voice without the need for an on-site web server, uninterrupted internet access, and the time it takes to debug configuration issues.
Make it work for your business: While 97% of consumers search for products and services online, only half of small businesses actually have a web presence.5 Beyond creating your own website, you can help bolster your online presence by registering on sites like Yelp and Google Maps, which allows you to make sure information like contact info and store hours is accurate.

4. You're on social media

Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr: We often think of these services as websites, but they're much more. They're social blogs, messaging apps, file sharing services, image galleries—and cloud applications that are accessible on practically any device and connected to millions of users.
Make it work for your business:  Social media can be a great avenue for raising brand awareness and connecting with customers. Yet out of the small businesses that have websites, 82% do not use social media (and 27% do not include a phone number to reach the business).5 Beyond traditional social media sites, professional social media platforms like LinkedIn offer a free and useful avenue for recruiting, networking, and keeping up with industry trends.

5. You stream shows

If you haven't yet heard the term “cord-cutter,” you will soon. It refers to users who are ending their cable subscriptions and going entirely online, relying on services like Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, and Pandora to stream shows and music. Consumers aren't the only ones jumping on this cloud trend, either. Not only is Netflix a cloud-based service, it uses cloud hosting from Amazon to manage its own files.6
Make it work for your business: Cord-cutting points to a clear trend. Cloud services are now robust enough to supplement as well as supplant more established services like cable television. And that trend is just as true in business. New alternatives to a variety of business tasks, from word processing (Google Apps for Business) to travel (Lyft) to mobile management (HP Touchpoint Manager) all provide ways that businesses can save and simplify.
Widespread adoption of cloud computing is poised to transform not just enterprises and tech startups, but small and medium businesses as well. 37% of U.S. small businesses have already fully adapted to cloud computing, and a 2014 Intuit study predicts that percentage will more than double to 80% by 2020.7 From streaming media to webmail, you've probably already experienced many of the benefits of cloud services in your personal life. With the right tools and support, advantages like improved efficiencies and access from virtually anywhere with an internet connection can easily be applied to your business life, as well.
[1] The Radicati Group, Email Statistics Report, March 2015. [2] Symantec, Webmail Security and Associated Best Practices, March 2012. [3] eMarketer, Where Do Millennials Want to Talk to Retailers? Email, March 2015. [4] Quartz, Global Executives Study, March 2014. [5] Score, Customer Friendly Websites Infographic, 2014. [6] Amazon, AWS Case Study: Netflix, 2015. [7] Intuit, Small Business Success in the Cloud, August 2014.

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