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How to set up a new business using only cloud services

Paul Mah | July 17, 2014
Starting your own business? Thanks to the wide availability of cloud services, you can have your business up and running with little more than the device you're using to read this article.

Enable Email Service
In terms of functionality, a new business looking to set up email today only has two primary contenders to mull over: The popular Google Gmail or a service based on Microsoft's Exchange Server technology. Though Exchange Server can be deployed either on-premises or in the cloud, we're only interested in the latter here, also known as Exchange Online.

There are many similarities between Gmail and Exchange Online. Both are supported by all the mobile platforms that matter, both can be accessed using a Web browser, and both have a long track record of excellent uptime.

The strength of Exchange lies in its full support for the Outlook client app on the desktop, which is still considered by many business users to offer superior productivity thanks to its built-in support for calendaring, contacts, tasks and notes. Moreover, multiple Exchange accounts can be managed to the same Outlook client. For its part, Gmail offers a highly optimized inbox that loads lightning fast in a Web browser. Searches are extremely fast on Gmail, which also sports a highly regarded spam filter.

Signing up for Gmail with your own domain is a straightforward process that can be done by opting for Google Apps for Business at $5 per user per month. For Exchange Online, either sign up for one of the Office 365 plans or opt for a third-party hosted Exchange vendor such as Intermedia.

For businesses where email is a crucial resource, it may be worthwhile to configure your secondary MX record to point to a backup provider. This will ensure that emails don't bounce even if the primary server suffers an outage. A backup mail server is typically set to channel these emails back to the primary service provider when it recovers.

Note that maintaining the integrity of one's MX records is absolutely vital, as it can be abused by hackers to surreptitiously siphon off email messages. This, in turn, can be used to infiltrate key systems via unauthorized password resets.

Set Up the Small Business Website
Businesses that seek only to deploy a simple Web front have a wealth of basic hosting services from which to choose. The most popular Web server is Apache, with PHP set up as the supported scripting language. Make sure it supports a database server, usually MySQL, as this will be required for a non-static website or for setting up a blog.

Businesses that expect a higher volume of visitors can turn to a content distribution network (CDN). CloudFlare is a popular choice, as it offers a free tier that promises basic website speed and performance, along with some protection from hackers.

 

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