The cloud is one of the best tools for innovation today. Period. Yes, consumers like it because they can store music, pictures and other files without eating up precious space on their computers or mobile devices that have limited digital real estate to begin with. And yes, businesses like it because it can reduce overall IT costs.

But as Thoran Rodrigues aptly points out in a recent TechRepublic article, the cloud is the key to innovation in a wide range of modern industries, not just the technology sector. While Rodrigues lists several reasons why companies that view the cloud as a mere cost-cutting tool are missing the point entirely, there’s one in particular that small business owners should pay attention to.

An effective and efficient testing ground has long been the white whale of the business world.

One that allows IT personnel the opportunity to replicate existing digital environments to see how their creations will work when put to the test is invaluable. That is what the cloud is. Whether testing to see how a consumer service would work or which bugs an internal IT system might encounter and fixing them before they become problems is extremely advantageous.

“The ability to quickly replicate an existing environment makes it much easier for IT teams to try multiple solutions to solve any problem that might come up, regardless of it being on the development or infrastructure end,” Rodrigues writes. “By the same measure, updates can be quickly deployed by using virtual addressing: instead of applying rolling updates – the usual method in large-scale deployments – simply create a replica production environment with the applied updates and flip the address to it.”

When small businesses work with experienced technology consulting firms, they can leverage the cloud as a tool for constant innovation. This means faster IT asset deployments without causing themselves problems along the way that only serve to slow the process to a crawl.