The introduction of cloud computing inevitably led to the question of whether moving to the cloud was a good idea. Back when the cloud was new, business owners had plenty of legitimate questions and very few answers that offered enough guidance for making decisions. Today, things are different. It is now easier than ever to determine whether the cloud is right for a given business or not. Cloud computing is a different kind of computing paradigm that takes software and data out of the local office and places it within a secure environment on a server owned, operated, and maintained by a third-party provider. In a cloud scenario, the company's data and applications are stored off-site and accessed by way of the internet. In a locally hosted scenario, the company would have its own computers on which data and applications are stored. In all likelihood, your business is already using at least some applications hosted in the cloud. For example, Microsoft's Office 365 is a cloud-based office suite. All the major productivity apps from Google – including Google Drive and Google Docs – exist in the cloud. Even social media sites like YouTube and Facebook are cloud-based. So now we are back to the original question: is the cloud right for your business? The only way to know is to compare what you are doing now to what is available in the cloud. Here are some things to consider: 1. IT Capabilities Let's start by talking about the IT capabilities of your company. Perhaps you have a dedicated IT team tasked with the responsibility of keeping your computer systems and software up and running. How are they doing? If your IT team is already stretched to the limit, one solution may be moving to the cloud. In the cloud, you can let the provider's IT staff handle routine maintenance. 2. Collaborative Capabilities One of the prime benefits of cloud computing is that it encourages true collaboration. Since cloud data and applications are centrally hosted and accessible by way of the internet, your company's entire staff can access and work with the same data from anywhere. Team members can all be collaborating on the same document while company executives are poring over reports. Meanwhile, the HR department is collaborating with the payroll provider to do what they need to do. 3. Cost-Effectiveness of the Cloud In many cases, moving to the cloud ends up being more cost-effective long-term. Less money is spent on maintaining hardware and infrastructure; software licences tend to be cheaper; and subscription-based services make it possible for customers to purchase only what they need to meet their specific demands at any particular time. 4. The Cloud Is Not All or Nothing Small businesses are understandably concerned about moving to the cloud after having existed for so many years operating in a traditional environment. However, there is a way to introduce your business to the cloud without fully committing. Simply put, the cloud is not an all-or-nothing proposition. You can start learning about the benefits of the cloud by signing up for one or two services while keeping everything else in-house. Perhaps you might move to Office 365 rather than upgrading the legacy office suite you now use. If all goes well with that application and service, you can choose something else to move to the cloud, and so on. It’s true that the cloud is not right for every business. Knowing if it is right for you requires stepping back and considering your company's IT capabilities, collaborative capabilities, and IT spend. A thorough analysis of what you are currently doing may very well point you to the cloud. It may also reveal that your current set-up is your best option. You won't know until you run an analysis.