A lot of you have expressed doubts about cloud storage, but it’s become a viable alternative for more and more small businesses and organizations.

Savvy small business owners are recognizing the value of moving business processes to the cloud. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) not only save money, they help businesses take advantage of rapid advances in technology. Not having to pay staff to maintain servers and software full time frees up resources to focus on core business operations, and the economies of using cloud services make it possible to use the newest software and services that might not otherwise be affordable. A survey by Gartner and Financial Executives Research Foundation shows that CFOs acknowledge the value of reduced costs with cloud services.

The cloud is not in the sky. It’s actually the off-site data center of whichever cloud service you use. With IaaS, businesses rent out hardware such as servers, storage, and networking to avoid the expense of buying, maintaining, and upgrading the equipment to run business services. SaaS provides software applications hosted by an IT service that takes care of maintenance and security. It enables customers to work with high-end software like customer relationship management applications without the upfront costs of purchasing, installing, maintaining, and updating. Cloud services give business owners and managers practical ways to take care of business needs without the expense and time investment in hardware and software. If you’re wondering what cloud services can do for your business, consider these four reasons to take the plunge:

Take Your Workforce Mobile

When your business operations are run in the cloud, remote workers and those in the field have easy access to the business data they need to stay productive while away from the office. A mobile workforce gives your business the flexibility to be competitive and compete with major companies without the time and expense of building the same type of infrastructure. It enhances productivity by providing access to current data and enabling better cross-company collaboration. Cloud services like Mozy enable team members from all over the world to work on projects simultaneously.

Don’t Get Stuck

When you have plans to grow your business, using cloud services can help you avoid stalling when your business outgrows its systems. Cloud services are much easier to scale up or down than aging hardware and software that has reached its capacity. When your business experiences seasonal growth or is ready to go to the next level, finding cloud services is almost as easy as picking up the phone or pushing a button to order an extra component or expand current services. Profitbricks’ vice president of marketing William Toll agrees, saying it helps maintain lean operating costs.

Reduce Staffing and Access Resources

Moving to the cloud cuts out the majority of installations, upgrades, hardware failures, security expertise, and equipment repairs that you’d need staff to handle. It also saves money with less expensive solutions such as appointment booking tools, project management applications. Profitbricks reports that a traditional data center costs well over $100,000 to setup and run but only around $45,000 using IaaS.

Moving to the cloud requires secure IaaS and Saas providers, almost 100 percent uptime, and integration with other applications for control over configurations. Be sure to properly vet the service provider before moving critical business operations.

~ Marissa Clark