For small businesses, getting good value for money out of IT and communications systems in vital. While large companies may be able to absorb the costs of an error in judgment when bringing in a new system, or of higher than expected maintenance costs, smaller firms often cannot. Small businesses - especially in the current economic climate - are often living on a financial knife-edge. That can make them resistant to change. However, it's important to remember that sometimes, it's important to keep up with the pace, even if it is unfamiliar, as it can lead to business benefits.

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An example of just such a change is the move towards the use of cloud services, rather than standard business IT infrastructure using a server and client model. Cloud computing is perfect for small businesses, as it allows them to avoid expensive physical infrastructure and software that needs to be maintained by specialists, and it helps improve staff productivity. Cloud services are ways of sharing files or data using internet based applications, similar to webmail or social media programs, but more advanced. They allow users to communicate and share in real time and access the system from anywhere, from laptops or smartphones. Because they are not limited by the need to connect to a physical network, staff have more freedom and control over when and how they communicate.

Small businesses without the ability to invest in costly infrastructure will find cloud services affordable. They also don't have to sign up to using them for all their IT, but take on the bits that they want or need. Some businesses might benefit from particular specialist cloud services, such as project management systems or sales software. More generally, every day services such as email and word-processing can be done on a cloud. The initial outlay when buying in these services is generally small, meaning that even the smallest of firms can experiment. They can also save a considerable amount of money. Not only are the day-to-day costs of maintaining IT infrastructure removed, but the costs of dealing with unexpected problems are too. If a server breaks down or is damaged, the costs in terms of repair and potential loss of business and damage to reputation could be considerable. Because services on the cloud are maintained elsewhere, businesses do not have that worry. For a small company, that could be the difference between sinking and swimming, especially when times are tough as they are now.

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