Research worldwide has indicated that millions of women are set to start their entrepreneurship ventures by the year 2025. World Bank data suggests that currently, there are almost 450 million small businesses worldwide. Globally, women are fast scaling-up in small businesses, particularly for the work-life balance it allows. It is imperative to be updated with the latest technology trends like the Internet of things (IoT) cloud-computing, to have a competitive edge while maintaining growth, sustainability, and ease of operation and put them to use in business.
Cloud-based applications are disrupting businesses in almost every sector, including retail, IT, healthcare, education, construction, food and beverages, and more. While IoT generates a huge volume of data, cloud computing gives meaning to the data by showing a proper path for the data to travel. Introduced in the 1960s by AT&T, Cloud computing today, is the best business-enablement platform, several small and medium enterprises across the globe are leveraging the efficiency of cloud-based apps. With Cloud, business owners can function from any computer or mobile device, including Mac, iOS, Android, or Windows. It is easier than ever to keep a tab on the business while juggling family responsibilities —all in a click from a mobile or a PC.
Cloud computing can meet the needs of the SMEs in various ways – Network upgrades, account security, and data recovery, mobility, and flexibility. Most of the data stored in cloud-based apps are secured with several layers of data protection and in-built redundancy. It ensures maximum safety of business and client information, which is great for Small businesses.
Cloud applications that can be used by women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs, in general, come mainly in three layers viz. SaaS – Software as a Service, IaaS – Infrastructure as a service and PaaS – Platform as a Service. These can be private Cloud, which is accessible by an organization or an enterprise, public Cloud is accessible by all, and the hybrid is a mix of public and private. Today several cloud-based apps are customized for people in various industries. The better the user experience (UX) for the app, the better is its popularity.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
SaaS allows an organization to use those apps that run on a Cloud provider’s infrastructure to run its processes and functions. In the SaaS model, businesses do not pay for licensing and are based on the pay-per-use model. SaaS apps are growing in popularity since users can access the conventional systems of software installation, management, and maintenance with the cloud-based application via the Internet.
Entrepreneurs widely use some popular SaaS apps like the following for their business and networking:
- Google Apps (Gmail, Google Drive)
- Microsoft Office 365
- Salesforce (CRM)
Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)
The IaaS enables enterprises to rent and lease storage servers. Business owners can store, compute, and operate data. Through this, users get to use virtual machines, firewalls, network devices, and load balancers while conveniently doing away with maintenance and running costs. It is the fastest-growing cloud spending service.
- Amazon, Rackspace – Virtual Private Server and storage providers
- CloudVPS – Virtual Private Server providers
- Mozy- storage providers
- Google Compute Engine (GCE)
- Digital Ocean
- Magento 1 Enterprise Edition
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
PaaS offers operating systems and databases as platforms to operate cloud-based apps like AWS Elastic Beanstalk with which companies can quickly deploy and manage applications in the AWS Cloud without having to learn about the infrastructure that runs the applications. Some other noted PaaS apps are:
- Google App Engine
- Microsoft Azure
- Red Hat OpenShift
- Amazon’s EC2 platform
- Engine Yard
- Apache Stratos
- Magento Commerce Cloud
Many of these apps can integrate with other apps to provide a wide range of services. Amazon Web services (AWS) by tech-giant Amazon offers a broad mix of IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS. It is known for its high-security standards and compliance certifications that include PCI-DSS, FedRAMP, GDPR, and others. Today, any desiring entrepreneur can set up their businesses using only Cloud services, without server costs, software licenses, and physical and geographical bottlenecks. It comes with ease of automating of work by adopting cloud-computing, easy marketing, and promotion using email service and social media.
Apart from the mainstream apps, several apps are gaining traction among Small and Medium Sized Enterprise (SMEs) for their ease of use, performance, and cost-effectiveness. Women entrepreneurs can use many of such apps for their business.
Savvis: This app has gained much popularity for the ease of computing for B2B clients. It helps businesses achieve a wide range of purposes, from project hosting to content management to providing e-commerce solutions, security at a very low cost.
Deskera: This is a software that also has a mobile app that is ideal for Small and Medium Size Businesses. Headquartered in Singapore, the company has 300 thousand plus customers worldwide and growing. The app is enabled with inbuilt financial accounting, inventory management and buy and sell cycles to help customers access accounts at their fingertips. They also have cloud-based Customer Relationship Management (CRM) app which is the most pocket friendly with a great user interface.
Shopify: E-commerce today is growing exponentially. In Singapore, the growth rate of e-commerce is as high as 9.1 % per annum with more and more people are actively spending online between the ages of 25-44. Women entrepreneurs are actively driving the growth in the e-commerce industry. For women entrepreneurs engaged in e-commerce, Cloud computing is a boon. There are several other apps like WooCommerce, Paypal, Shipstation, etc. that help their customers manage their orders from the most popular marketplaces using the best shipping carriers. According to a study by Akmai, 40 percent of customers leave a webpage if it doesn’t load within 3 seconds. It is important to ensure the fast-loading of webpages. E-commerce giant Amazon increased its revenue by 1% by just improving their site speed by a few milliseconds. Therefore, while choosing an app, it is important to watch out for the right scalability.
Asana App: The app helps business owners build project plans, coordinate and manage tasks and teams. It helps in workflow management, project management, and prioritizing tasks for optimum business benefits. It is also free for teams up to 15.
Slack: Slack is a start-up established in 2009, and today, over 5 million companies and businesses are using its application. Cisco Webex and Microsoft teams are close competitors. It has extensive cloud-based collaborative tools where teams can communicate via messaging, which is excellent for remote working in a business organization. It allows for over 100 integrations, searchable history, two-way audio-video, integrated API, and is very user friendly. The biggest use is to send and receive files up to 1GB size as opposed to Gmail, which has a maximum limit of 25MB. It has grown to $7 billion in size today and is often reviewed as the Pioneer of Team Collaboration Software. Workplace by Facebook is also getting increasingly popular as a cost-effective tool for team collaboration.
Medallia: For any businesses to thrive, there has to be a system of learning out of feedback. It is exactly what Medallia- a customer experience SaaS-based start-up does. It helps businesses get customer feedback through their in-app surveys, emails, and social media that help understand and manage customer experiences that provide valuable insights on improvement to an organization. They also provide customers with video, voice, ideas, and messaging. This San Francisco based start-up is growing in popularity for its rich user-experience from sophisticated AI technologies.
Stripe: This is an app by a San-Francisco based FinTech start-up that has grown into a $20 billion business. The app helps small business owners accept online payments from their customers without bothering security issues and payment frauds.
Cloudfare: This app helps in faster loading of websites and also filters malicious traffic and harmful bots. They are also launching several services for Small Businesses to enable business continuity at these times of crisis. The app also offered free services to SMEs that were most affected during this COVID-19 emergency.
Cloud-based apps further have the ease of partnerships and collaborations for better growth of enterprises. With the Cloud, businesses can seamlessly adopt sophisticated technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Gartner has forecasted that the global market for cloud computing is set to grow by a whopping $266.4 billion from 2019-20. In, 2017 the cloud computing market was just at $55 billion.
By 2023, this is expected to grow further with cloud service providers expanding with several services.
In unprecedented times like that of today, especially with the world grappling with the global pandemic Covid-19, Cloud computing has saved many enterprises. While businesses all over the globe are bombing impacting the entire economy, cloud natives are thriving.
However there lies Fear in adopting to these cloud computing technologies, as moving on-premise computing to cloud can be unnerving.
One of the biggest fear is Security as moving organisation valuable assets to unknown territory can be compromised, specially when these assets are uploaded on public cloud domain which is a shared physical resource.
Tie-in with the service provider is another factor to consider as you partner with the service provider with your sensitive infrasturcture strategy. It is essential to gain knowledge about the service providers support capability, functional capability and the various billing options available.
Again understanding of Service Providers billing mechanism is imperative. As adopting to cloud computing services you avoid upfront implementation cost and pay based on “pay-per-use” model. However it is essential to understand the public cloud usage and whether adoption of cloud service makes an economic sense, otherwise companies can end up with ineffective usage of the cloud space and charged with whooping bills.
Loosing control can be another point of concern for many companies. However one must look for trusted service providers who will share proper performance matrics and provide continous support, in order to focus on achieving business goals.
Having discussed the aforedsaid fear, the positives far outweigh the disadvantages or limitations of cloud computing. Cloud computing is the key enabler of digital transformation in businesses. And as Gartner says in the coming days, the Corporate “no-cloud” policy will be equal to today’s “no-internet” policy.