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Eight New Year’s Resolutions for the Cloud

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Note from Lionel: Below is the first of three cloud computing-related guest posts from Rhonda Abrams. Rhonda is president of The Planning Shop who also writes for USA Today.

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2012 may be the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese calendar, but for growing companies, 2012 is destined to be the Year of the Cloud. The time to take advantage of cloud—or Internet-based applications—has arrived. But don’t just plunge head first into any cloud solution that comes your way. As you enter this Year of the Cloud, it’s time for some New Year’s resolutions to help you make the best choices and select the best solutions for your small or medium business.

1. Resolve to take action. The cloud’s not just for “early adopters” any more. It’s for any smart, growing business. In my company, we’re already happy users of a few cloud solutions, but we’re aggressively moving many more key functions to the cloud. Why? All the benefits—like fewer IT headaches, greater computing power and application functionality, more insights into our business, continual upgrades, predictable costs, and virtually no conflicts with operating systems. The list goes on and on…

2. Resolve to “configure, not customize.” It’s likely you currently rely on some custom-built software to run your business. What you’ve discovered is that custom solutions are expensive to build, expensive to maintain, expensive to upgrade, and hard to integrate with other functions. The cloud offers another—better—option. The leading cloud solutions allow you to configure their offerings substantially, enough to almost certainly meet your needs. So look for configurability when choosing your cloud solutions.

3. Resolve to not let your critical data walk out the door. What happens if you lose a great salesperson? Will valuable data—like the names and contact info of key customers and prospects—leave with them? I’m betting some of that information now resides solely on their cell phones or desktops. Ouch! That’s critical data for your growth, and you’re not in control of it. By using a cloud-based CRM solution (like Salesforce CRM), you not only get control over that vital data, you get far more insight into how your salespeople and other staff are actually performing, and company data remains company data. 

4. Resolve to find trusted partners. As you choose cloud vendors, make certain you select companies that you feel confident will be there with you for the long haul. There’s almost certainly going to be a shakeout of some cloud service providers, and you want to be confident you’re with a company that has the resources and commitment to stand behind their cloud offerings—such as Dell. The new suite of cloud applications from Dell Cloud Business Applications (DCBA) chooses “best of breed” cloud applications for SMBs and brings them together in one package, with the security of Dell.  

5. Resolve to use the power of analytics. One of the unsung benefits of the cloud is how much more info and insight you get about how your business is performing. In fact, it’s amazing how much info you can get, and get easily. With a few clicks of your mouse, you’ll have at your fingertips far more data—and better yet, data analysis—on which to make better business decisions. Use it.   

6. Resolve to think about integration right from the start. Tired of the loss of productivity and cost of double or triple entry of data? Need to compile data from more than one application in your company to understand how you’re actually doing? Then think “integration”—or how you can get your applications, whether cloud-based or on-premise, to work together. The hidden power of the cloud gets unleashed when you get programs working together and sharing data. That’s one of the things Dell Cloud Business Applications is doing from the get-go, designing integration right from the start. 

7. Resolve to be scalable. If yours is a fast-growing company, definitely think cloud, cloud, cloud. Most cloud solutions can easily grow and shrink as your business needs change. No need to call in an IT specialist to onboard new hires, buy and install expensive software and hardware for them, and take days or weeks to bring them up-to-speed technologically. With the cloud, you can essentially plunk a new employee down with a basic computer, an Internet connection, and they can be up and running in no time.   

8. Resolve to get my new book free. My latest book, Bringing the Cloud Down to Earth, will be available in bookstores come April. But you can get a free download of the complete book now, thanks to Dell Cloud Business Applications. Just go to http://dellcloudapplications.com/crm-resources/ebook-bringing-cloud-down-earth

See you in the clouds in 2012!

Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2011

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Rhonda Abrams is the Small Business and Entrepreneurship columnist for USAToday, the author of the bestselling business plan guide in the US – Successful Business Plan: Secrets and Strategies and more than 15 other books for entrepreneurs. Her books are used in 22 of the top 25 entrepreneurship programs in the US and been translated into more than 30 languages.  She is the President of PlanningShop, creator of content for entrepreneurs. Register for her free business tips newsletter at www.PlanningShop.com, “like” PlanningShop's Facebook page, or follow her on Twitter @RhondaAbrams

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