As a CIO and entrepreneur I’m often asked by entrepreneurs what they should put in the cloud. My answer is… “Everything.” Period. Full stop.
The cloud is the great equalizer for today’s startups. It is one of the few areas where a startup can access the same resources as large corporations.
When you are thinking about starting a new business, there are a lot of factors and decisions at play that can seem overwhelming. But there are some basic guidelines that will help you maximize the value of the cloud, approaching it strategically to tap into its full power.
Stop asking “why cloud?’ and start asking “why not?”
With all the cloud “noise” — billboards, TV commercials and news stories — it’s easy to lose sight of the real business benefits that the cloud can provide. To fully leverage the cloud for your startup, you must first know what it can do for you.
Starting a business used to require anticipating how much the company could — or would — grow, and using that as a barometer to determine investment needs. Today, business owners have the ability to procure cloud services that meet their immediate needs, with the flexibility to scale up if their business takes off, all with a call and a credit card. Cloud elegantly supports the ebbs and flows of seasonality and new product introductions.
We hear a lot about the importance of scaling up, but an under-appreciated benefit of the cloud is its ability to scale down. A small business requires the agility and flexibility to try new things, test, experiment and stretch. With the cloud, if any ventures don’t work along the way, scaling down can be as easy as cancelling a subscription. Cloud supports a true “fail fast” startup mentality.
There’s a common misperception that putting things on the cloud is risky, and that you should keep anything you don’t want hacked, such as your intellectual property, on premises.
Think of it like a bank. If someone gave you a million dollars cash 70 years ago, you’d have stashed it under your mattress, doubting the bank’s ability to protect your investment. Today, you’d march that money directly to a bank because they’ve made huge investments in security.
Now think of the technical equivalent. With the scale that companies like Amazon and Google are putting resources into the cloud, they can provide security better and faster than any typical startup. Small companies can take months or years to even uncover a vulnerability, let alone fix it. By proactively monitoring for attacks and fixing bugs faster, cloud-solution providers deliver the secure experience that customers look for and anticipate, regardless of company size.
There are very few reasons that an entrepreneur would want to buy or host internally when starting a company. That said, here are three key areas to focus on that will provide the fastest impact, and prove the most logical initial investment for a startup.
Operations: In reality, company operations will likely be the first things to place in the cloud. With plug-and-play solutions for accounting, payroll and staff or performance management, these functions are some of the easiest to run in the cloud.
Applications: Company applications, like email and sales software, are another logical cloud move. For nearly all businesses starting out, it will make the most fiscal sense to use a readily-available service such as Gmail or Salesforce. Cloud applications like these allow entrepreneurs to hit the ground running without much capital under their belt.
Website: The widespread advice for entrepreneurs used to be “have a nice suit,” “have a good elevator pitch,” or “have a good business card.” Now, it’s more like “have a professional website.”
There is no reason that your startup’s website shouldn’t look and act like that of a Fortune 100 company. Cloud resources like Amazon Web Services allow entrepreneurs to build websites that scale to handle growing traffic, securely manage credit card information, or manage unexpected spikes in activity.
Further, when building your website think mobile first. As soon as people hear your company name, they’ll look up your site , likely they’ll do it on their phone. It should present and function just as cleanly on a mobile device as it does from a desktop.
Level the playing field.
Cloud is a game changer, not a fad or just a buzz word. For any startup, cloud makes resources that were once limited to major enterprises not only accessible, but also affordable.
So take a long look at your startup’s business plan and analyze potential problems and obstacles – they can almost certainly be solved with the cloud.