Few markets benefit from new technology more than small business. New software, gadgets, online services ─ all are ready to help small businesses do more and reach further, and take less time doing it.

However, not all small businesses use technology the same way. Trends show us how new tech influences small businesses in good ways (reduces IT costs for feature sets, maintenance, and custom solutions) and bad ways (malware risk and threats to aging business applications).

This post on cloud adoption is the first in a series to help small businesses delve into tools, services, and ideas to leverage technology.

In the past few years, more and more small businesses have turned to the cloud for their IT services. According to Intuit, 62 percent of small businesses operate in the cloud today, up 37 percent from just two years ago. The reasons range from needing to change from software tools to cloud-based services, to going straight to a cloud service to meet a business need. Some startups even kick off as a 100 percent cloud-based business.

What kind of cloud services are we talking about? All kinds. From one Dropbox account to running all operations in the cloud (yes, it’s possible!) Here is a list, ranked in order of popularity amongst our customers:

  • File Storage (e.g. Dropbox, Box, private cloud storage, etc.)
  • Microsoft Office 365
  • Collaboration (e.g. chat, conference, file sharing)
  • Financial Services (e.g. QuickBooks online, Salesforce)
  • Website Hosting/Development (e.g. Shopify, Squarespace)
  • Cloud Servers, replacing your on premise servers

Cloud = A Simplified Workday

When customers ask us about the cloud, we always ask for the reason behind their interest. Not only does it tell us what kind of services they need, it helps us to avoid recommending the wrong solution. (The cloud has a lot of options!) Based on these conversations, it then comes down to time and cost savings. Many small businesses view using cloud services as a way to simplify their workday, both in setup and everyday operation.

TIME: Most perceive cloud service setup as quick and easy. Just sign up, enter a credit card number, and boom, you have a new IT service! For small businesses, this is pretty accurate. This is one area where being a small business works in your favor. If you’re an established company with many employees, you have a lot of data. Migrating lots of data into a cloud service takes a long time and experiences a lot of hiccups along the way. Small businesses don’t have as much data, making the cloud transition shorter.

Using cloud services also saves time when employees work from different places. Small businesses with remote workers (sometimes called “hives”) aren’t always on the same schedule. But if everyone uses a cloud service to communicate and share files, they still have the flexibility to accomplish their tasks.

COST: After the initial cost of migration, cloud services are paid in regular monthly payments. Paying a regular monthly fee instead of a big up-front cost is attractive to some businesses.

In addition, the cloud is often a low-cost alternative to replacing old servers. What’s better —spend thousands on a replacement server, or spread your costs out with a cloud subscription? (This also puts the job of maintaining the hardware in someone else’s hands).

Ensuring Data Security

However, there is a catch. Cloud services can help out your operations, but some of them don’t have the security that a business needs. Beware of the common assumption, “I’m a small business. Who would want to hack me?” Unfortunately, cybercriminals like to target small businesses. In fact, 43 percent of all cyberattacks hit small businesses, according to a 2016 report from Symantec. One way cybercriminals steal data from small businesses is by breaking into cloud services.

Most cloud service providers take care to maintain good security. However, even if you have a secure cloud service and a secure computer, that doesn’t mean the connection between the two is secure! Cloud services should be accessed on a secure Internet connection (not the coffee shop’s Wi-Fi) to maintain the books. The same goes for cloud backup service.

As the cloud grows, its services become more affordable and easier for small business use. So long as businesses are smart about data security, we predict that many more small businesses will embrace cloud computing.

We welcome and encourage your thoughts on this and other small business tech trends in the comments section below.