The advent of high-speed internet and more powerful cloud services change how we can run our businesses. I’ve had this conversation with IT providers and most often the answer I get is something like “Cloud…I don’t know about that yet…what if your internet went down…”

The “What if your internet went down” argument is a big one. Here’s my thought on that. Even if you don’t use cloud computing, you’re probably so dependent on the internet that you’ll have problems either way. Internet going down can be one of the easier problems to solve, especially for a small to medium-sized business. It’s only going to be down temporarily. Either get a backup internet solution or go somewhere that there is a working internet service.

My overarching answer to the question of cloud vs on-premise is this. I think it depends on the size of your business. Your business probably needs an on-premise solution if you’re big enough to maintain it. Servers and large systems like that need to be constantly maintained and I don’t believe small businesses can afford that. I suspect that most small businesses that have servers aren’t looking after them properly. I just don’t see how they can. It costs too much and requires way too much redundancy to have in place for proper implementation.

For small to medium businesses I love the idea of cloud computing, not necessarily cloud servers, but cloud-based web apps to perform their business functions. Obviously, this isn’t workable in every scenario, but where it is, then I think it’s the way to go. If you use only web apps (e.g. GSuite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations etc, maybe Xero for accounts, Lucidpress for desktop publishing and so on), then you don’t need a server and you don’t need to worry about maintaining it at all.

You only need basic hardware because all of your operations are done on a more powerful server owned by Amazon or Google or someone. They have people full time looking after those servers so you don’t have to and you don’t have to worry about paying for it. Often in response to that, people say to me “but what if Google goes down”. My answer to that is “which is more likely, that your small business will close, or that Google or Amazon will?”

I grant that running your business through web apps is a different approach and requires different methods of working. I still recommend taking backups of your cloud data (even though your provider will be doing that anyway). For me, it’s the fact that you can go to any device and log in to your online software and access your data (I’m assuming here you’re implementing good security measures). If your computer goes down you just go to another one. You don’t need someone to repair your own computer urgently because you’ve lost nothing. That means you don’t incur the cost of emergency IT services and costly redundancy solutions.

In this age of internet computing, I don’t believe that small business owners should have to worry about hardware problems and machines going down etc. That stuff, while it will happen, should never become a huge problem for small business owners. As I said, it’s different for large businesses but they should have and be able to afford people to look after it anyway.