I’ve been involved in the world of small business my whole life—first as the daughter and granddaughter of small business owners, then as a journalist and editor writing about small business, and now as an entrepreneur myself. In all that time, there are three things that transformed my business life like nothing else: the personal computer, the Internet, and now the cloud.
As recently as 2008, if I wanted to work on an electronic file at home, I either had to email it to myself, save it on a thumb drive, or lug my laptop home. Imagine how often I got home and sat down at my computer only to realize I’d forgotten the file. Or worse, the information I needed was stored on one of my business partners’ computers. Talk about frustration, not to mention the late-night treks back to the office.
Like every small business owner, I work long hours. When Microsoft Office 365 came along, I was suddenly able to work on all of my company documents anytime, anywhere. It changed everything. I’m pretty sure my productivity and my business partners’ productivity doubled.
Speaking of partners, collaborating on files and projects is a lot easier when the documents are in the cloud. No more frantic emailing back and forth about “Which is the latest version?” or “Who has file X?” You can view, edit, and share documents right in the cloud, which is great for companies like mine where everyone has input.
My partners like to tease me about how frequently I switch computers. I travel a lot, and I’m hard on my laptops, so I like to always have at least one spare. Plus, our growing business means I often need more power and storage. Switching computers used to be a pain. Transferring all of my applications and files to a new machine was time consuming and stressful, and something always went wrong.
I was suddenly able to work on all of my company documents anytime, anywhere. It changed everything.
With my data stored in the cloud, it’s become super easy to set up a new computer and to access my information from any device I choose. Plus, those occasional hard drive crashes are a lot easier to shrug off now that my business data is safely backed up in the cloud and can always be retrieved.
Did I mention travel? I’m a major road warrior, and using cloud services makes it simple to hit the road without worrying that I’ve left critical documents behind. When I don’t feel like traveling, I use Skype to connect with clients and prospects all over the country. That’s just another way that using the cloud enables connectivity.
I believe in connection and collaboration—the power that comes from people putting their heads together, brainstorming, and creating something bigger than the sum of its parts. Beyond all the practical advantages of the cloud, to me, its greatest advantage is that it is the ultimate collaboration tool, and that’s what makes it a game changer for small business owners.