For many small business owners, running their operations in the cloud means they can access their data from anywhere, on any device at anytime.

Embracing cloud not only assists the bottom line, it helps tighten company security and business owners are afforded greater flexibility and more opportunity.

As the move to the cloud spreads from the largest of enterprises to the smallest of companies - including freelancers and gig-economy workers, there are a raft of technology companies investing in solutions to help these entrepreneurs run their operations when and how they like.

Here are five reasons to run your entire business in the cloud.

1. It's much easier to collaborate

Remember the days when all your documents were saved on your hard drive and you'd either have to back it up or risk losing your life's work forever? That's no longer an issue. The cloud is a platform that makes data and software accessible online anytime, anywhere, from any device. Your hard drive is no longer the central hub. Companies like Google with its Google Apps for Work suite mean you can collaborate on any device, at any time, with your team or clients in one document. You can track changes, make comments, share and chat about what you're working on in real-time.

Your mobile, combined with tools like Hangouts, Skype, HipChat or Slack, means you have plenty of ways to stay in touch with your team and your clients. You can track projects, comments and with no need for a clunky relic of a desk phone, you have more space. It's an all-round winner.

2. You have a real-time view of your financial position

Small business accounting software that's not cloud-based can be tedious. Traditionally, it can suck up far too much of your business' time and effort. This doesn't add value, and takes the fun out of being in business. Using cloud accounting software, like Xero, means you enter your data once,  so you can work on a single ledger with your financial advisor. With direct data feeds from your financial institutions, and automatic bank reconciliations, you know exactly where your business stands.

3. There are thousands of apps available to help

The cloud is inherently flexible which means you can scale up solutions or scale down ones that don't work with your company, much simpler than old desktop software. For example, once you're up-and-running on a cloud platform you can plug in any multitude of add-on apps to streamline workflows, digitize traditional paper-based processes like signing documents, automate tedious tasks like invoice chasing or even improve team communication. The move to the cloud opens up a whole vibrant ecosystem of apps ready to help you work smarter.  

4. It's way safer than that hard drive you log around

With teams of data security specialists focusing on protecting your data, the cloud is one of the most secure ways to store information. For example, by using cloud software, if your laptop is stolen, no one can access your data unless they have a login to the online account. With cloud software, this is where the data lives - as opposed to on your hard drive.

In the event of a natural disaster or fire, being in the cloud means business productivity doesn't need to be affected because there's no downtime. All of your information is safely and securely stored off site. As long as you have access to any computer or mobile device connected to the internet, you're back up and running.

In addition to this, if you invite users to view your data, you can control the level of access. This is much more secure than the old-fashioned way of emailing your files or sending out a USB stick with your data on it, or the biggest security hole: sharing a login.

5. Cloud promotes agility and innovation

Moving to the cloud helps speed up traditional workflows, challenges teams to think differently about their traditional jobs and how they work together and spurs innovation.

While it may take strong leadership and time to overcome initial teething issues, the effort to push the boundaries and the benefits that sort of challenge delivers to a company far outweigh the cost of letting the cloud movement go by. Going all in on cloud is an economic advantage for many small businesses, but it can also prove to be a competitive one -- helping attract a new demographic of employee or customer, while driving business results.

Published on: Jun 6, 2016