For our April 2013 Tweetchat, we chatted with Pam O’Hara, CEO of Batchbook, a company helping small businesses build meaningful relationships with their best customers. Pam is also Chairwoman of The Small Business Web, the international trade association of cloud software for small business. This Tweetchat was titled “How SMBs Can Use Cloud Services Effectively.”
PEX Card: How does the cloud work for business owners today?
Pam O'Hara: Small businesses are using the cloud for everything from marketing to advertising, operations, networking and counseling. All parts of running a business can be improved by using a tool, getting advice or selling more online. One of the best features of using the cloud for your business is that you can access your information from *almost* anywhere & at any time.
PEX Card: What are the biggest hurdles in becoming a cloud-based business?
Pam O’Hara: Change is hard. If you have a system that works, it’s hard to justify the change. Early adopters tend to be new businesses, innovative businesses or troubled businesses (which can be the most innovative). Other hurdles are adoption by the team (see above) & fear of new technology.
PEX Card: What are the biggest benefits of the cloud?
Pam O’Hara: The access, of course. Anytime/anywhere. There are huge increases in efficiency. Additionally, shared data means less data entry, less mistakes, more collaboration. The cloud is also cheaper in the long run.
PEX Card: Is moving to the cloud a time consuming process?
Pam O’Hara: Not usually for small businesses. Vendors are motivated to make it easy to set-up & import. It’s harder to get information out, as with all software, so spend time kicking tires before committing to one vendor.
PEX Card: How reliable is the cloud? Is the host company backing up my critical information?
Pam O’Hara: Data is generally safer in the cloud than on your laptop or a local server. Back-ups, firewalls, redundant connections & power supplies are standard with cloud providers. Also, you almost never lose data from a spilled cup of coffee when your data is in the cloud.
PEX Card: Is my information “safer” in the cloud from hackers than it is on my own computer?
Pam O’Hara: It depends on value of your data. For 99% of small businesses, the effort from hackers to steal your data it is not worth it. Robbing a bank is easier.
PEX Card: Would you recommend testing different cloud services? What criteria should be used to evaluate them?
Pam O’Hara: Yes, definitely take a few test drives. Use small samples of real data & try to get real things done. Put the customer service team to the test as well. They can make/break your adoption.
PEX Card: Should business owners also store critical data on a separate backup or is that not necessary?
Pam O’Hara: I’m a data junkie, so I will never say “no.” But separate backup is much less critical in the cloud than on a laptop.
PEX Card: Any other tips or advice you can share with small businesses on moving to the cloud?
Pam O’Hara: Look for systems that integrate with each other – it will make your life much easier. My trade association, Small Business Web, has a list of systems for business owners to review. Lastly, embrace the change
Thanks for joning Pam!
Toffer Grant is PEX's Founder and CEO. He founded PEX in 2006 as a prepaid card solution for small businesses. His background in the prepaid industry began at Clarity Payment Solutions, where he initiated 65 prepaid card programs in consumer, corporate, and emerging verticals of the prepaid card industry.