Even in these cash-strapped times, there’s little point in putting off an IT upgrade for too long. Technology still changes fast. The latest software and applications can help you do new things and be more efficient. And – perhaps more pressingly – equipment tends to age, warranties expire … and sometimes things break.

But if cashflow is tight, you might not feel comfortable spending thousands on a new server or on computers for your staff. Or if things are changing for your company – you’re set to expand, you’re moving into new markets or you’re simply not sure how the next few months are going to pan out – you might be unwilling to invest in a fixed IT system right now.

There’s no such thing as a fixed IT system

Of course, there’s no such thing as a fixed IT system. You can always add new components, change your software or build on what you have. But traditional in-house IT systems have their limitations.

Adding extra capacity usually means buying new hardware, installing the software and getting all the settings right. As for reducing capacity? That’s easy enough – but it means you’re not using all the IT equipment and software you’ve bought and paid for. So it’s not very efficient.

Be more flexible with the cloud

If those scenarios sound familiar to your business, it might be time to look beyond traditional in-house IT when you’re next making a business IT buying decision. It’s time to look towards the cloud.

Cloud computing moves some of your IT resources outside your business. That doesn’t mean you lose control over them. It just means that instead of accessing software or services on a central server that you own, you log in to a service on the internet.

Why use the cloud?

These days, you can do almost anything in the cloud. In fact, the chances are you already use it. Ever used Hotmail, or Yahoo Mail, or Gmail? They could all be classed as cloud computing services, simply because they store all your email on the internet, and you can log in to see it from anywhere.

Substitute your email for your documents, your business accounts or your customer details and perhaps suddenly you can see the power of the cloud:

  • Add extra capacity easily. Investing in cloud computing doesn’t mean buying hardware of your own. You just rent a service over the internet. Need to add access for an extra person? Just pay a little extra each month and they’ll have it – instantly. The same goes if you need to reduce capacity.
  • Reduce your IT burden. The easiest way to think of cloud computing is as a service you rent. The big advantage of that is that someone else is responsible for maintaining the infrastructure and fixing things if they go wrong. Choose your cloud computing provider(s) carefully and you can dramatically reduce the IT management burden in your company.
  • Spread your costs. It’s a common misconception that cloud computing is cheaper than doing all your IT in-house. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. But what’s definitely true is that cloud computing works on a subscription basis. Typically, you pay by the month – which means you don’t have to find a big chunk of money at upgrade time.
  • Continuous upgrades. Talking of upgrades, one of the other benefits of paying by the month is that you won’t usually have to wait for upgrades. Improvements come incrementally – you’ll normally receive new features as soon as they’re available, rather than having to upgrade to the latest version of a piece of software.

But perhaps one of the most compelling arguments for cloud computing is that you don’t have to jump in at the deep end. You can try it out in areas of your IT you’re comfortable with. If it goes well, then you can roll it out into other parts of your business. If you’re thinking of upgrading your IT systems, see if cloud computing services could help you.