New Technology Offering Advantages
Would a hair salon, spa or related hair business which utilizes email services, automated appointment setting, data bases for customer records, social media networking or similar benefit from utilizing cloud services rather than trying to manage all those needs in-house?
Would the cost of paying for all of those services individually be offset by tying everything together to be operated by a third party service?
As the hair industry struggles to embrace new technologies in order to remain viable and competitive, cloud computing may or may not offer advantages. Every business, whether a hair salon, a spa or similar should at least be open to the possibilities that cloud computing may offer.
No, cloud computing is not for every business and in fact, many business, even large ones, are still utilizing the cloud services on a case by case or limited basis. I've been evaluating and utilizing cloud computing in a variety of ways since the services were first introduced and they can be both a blessing and a curse.
What Is The Cloud
What is the cloud? The basic idea behind cloud computing is simple. A company's hardware and software requirements can be outsourced to third-party companies which provide some or all of the technology resources ranging from providing simple email services to full blown hardware and software services for business operations.
Cloud computing companies which offers cloud services include Google, Amazon, Netflix and ESPN to name just a few of the corporations jumping onto the cloud bandwagon.
Advantages And Disadvantages
With every new technology there are advantages and disadvantages. While the key advantage to utilizing cloud computing is allowing a third party to handle corporate computing and minimize or eliminate capital expenditures, there are also disadvantages. While cloud computing is here to stay, it's still in its infancy as a business model.
Advocates of the cloud point out that when a company turns over their hardware and software needs to a cloud service provider it offers greater flexibility, innovation and the latest emergency technologies to business management. That part is true.
However, there are always two sides to every story. While cloud service companies offer an array of cloud-ware tools which can help in the day-to-day management of business calendars, documents, email and more, there can also be a dark side to utilizing cloud computing.
The Dark Side Of The Cloud
The biggest state concern amongst small businesses in every industry, not use hair, is cloud security. Respondents to a recent IDC survey reported their biggest worries about cloud computing included security, availability and performance.
Security breaches in cloud computing are a serious concern. Of course security is a concern for any business, whether they use cloud services or not. When any type of computing environment exists to handle business there is an associated risk. Motivated hackers can go after any files they target even on privately owned services. Hard drives do fail. It's a fact of life.
How much data do cloud companies like Google and Amazon collection about your and your business and how might that information be used in the future?
Will your cloud services go down unexpectedly, leaving you without access to critical customer records, e-mail, or other information for hours or more? Google's Gmail outages are famous, but other well-established services have gone dark on occasion, too.
Some online storage sites have shut down abruptly, sending users scrambling to recover their data, sometimes with only 24 hours' notice. T-Mobile Sidekick users were unhappy to discover their personal data had been erased from their devices--especially when Microsoft said that the data loss was irrevocable. Luckily Microsoft eventually recovered most of the data.
One common concern is the ease or options to share data between different cloud services? What happens if a business decides to stop using a cloud service? Will the business be able to get all of their corporate data back? If so, will it be in a compatible format? How can a business guarantee that the cloud service won't destroy all of their data if they sever ties with it?
Users of cloud-based tools frequently complain that they aren't as powerful as stand-a-lone software applications.
A good example is Google Docs. The application lacks a number of features which Microsoft Office have had for years. Would that be a problem for your business? I guess it depends if you utilize Microsoft Office for your daily business needs.
Should The Hair Industry More To The Cloud?
Whether any small business ranging from a hair salon to a full blown spa offering hair services should move to the cloud should be considered carefully. All of the pros and cons should be considered. Talk to other businesses that are similar in size and operations to understand what challenges they faced and whether the move was worthwhile.
Start slow with just one or two services to test out the concept and see if it saves your money, headaches or operational personnel. If it doesn't then dump it. Which is why it's important to sign up for trial services which allow you to cancel with limited or no advance warning.
Cloud computing is a different way of working from what most people are used to, and building familiarity and trust takes time. Any business, of any size which doesn't at least evaluate the options available could be missing out on an opportunity to take your company into the future and continuing to survive in extremely challenging times.
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