When times get tough, focusing on your core business is imperative. Cutting bottom-line costs to the business along with making operations run as efficiently and effectively as possible is one of the first steps towards shoring up your defenses. In these tough economic times, ask any company if they could save money a year per employee and most likely they’d jump at the chance.

IT can be a big upfront cost and having to manage it on a daily basis can increase spend and distract you even further from your core focus – making money. Until now.

The business approach to IT is being redefined by the Internet. Email, documents, calendars and other business communication tools are increasingly being delivered and hosted online via a trend known as ‘cloud computing’. Cloud computing is a simple concept: applications and data are delivered over the Internet via a third party. It’s a transformational, disruptive technology which is having a big impact on the way the world of IT works and the way businesses run IT. Cloud computing has many key benefits, but two stand out – firstly, cost savings. Once you’re hooked up to the web, the cost of buying licenses, purchasing servers and maintaining them is reduced because it’s possible to effectively ‘rent’ business applications from a third party. From a budget perspective, it brings predictable costs for IT and dramatically reduces spend on traditional desktop software.

Secondly, there are productivity gains to be made from running your business via the cloud. Key to this is the shift towards a more collaborative way of working. We need to share information and work with others to get things done, and the Internet allows you to do this in a way that hasn’t been possible before. A business owner in Leeds chats with one of her managers working from London as they work on the same spreadsheet at the same time. An on-the-road sales team meets on a single document in the cloud to plan the next quarter’s budget. Getting access to information instantly, from wherever you might be, on whatever device you need it is crucial. After all, the geographical and mobile nature of business doesn’t change just because credit is harder to come by.

Some business owners could be hesitant to transfer their entire IT infrastructure to the cloud: hosting your data with a web-based provider can represent a shift in thinking about control and security of data. However, it is important to remember that the business of the key cloud computing providers who host the data depends on offering a secure environment for it. They invest more time and money in protecting their customers’ data than any small organisation could possibly afford; in fact, it is one of the most important factors considered when developing new products that handle personal and business data.

Over 5 million businesses are currently using our Google Apps productivity suite which provides online email, instant messaging, documents, video and much more. Many of these companies are businesses who have seen that this model makes economic and business sense, making them more agile, flexible, competitive and innovative. The question is, have you?

Written by: Juliet Ehimuan

Juliet Ehimuan is the (Nigeria) Country Manager for Google