Cloud computing—you may have never heard of it, or you may already be using it.  Either way, it’s the latest wave in technology services, and it’s definitely worth learning more about.

 

Imagine this: You receive a bill from an IT company—but it is not for consulting hours or a new server. It is a monthly invoice that comes along with your electricity bill and bank statement, and it covers your organization’s usage of equipment, software, and managed network support services for the month. Sound futuristic? It’s not, and you may have already heard of it—cloud computing. It has been identified in eWeek, Fortune, and other publications as a “top tech trend to watch in 2009.” But what is it, is it right for you, and how could it potentially change the landscape of technological services?

What Exactly is Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing refers to the practice of delivering software, computer applications, and other  IT-related capabilities to end-users by a third entity—or “the cloud.”  This delivery method could refer to the Internet or any other existing “mystery” provider. The idea is that you have no knowledge of where or how the provider is actually delivering these capabilities and that you pay for these services according to usage. There are two types of cloud computing—platform cloud computing and software as a service.  Platform cloud computing is based around a piece of hardware. When you decide to rent a server from Amazon, this is an example of platform cloud computing. Software as a service cloud computing is based around a program. A great example of software as cloud computing is Google Docs. You don’t know how the documents are stored, how they are backed up, protected from viruses, or even delivered to your computer.  It is all “up in the cloud somewhere”—i.e., “cloud computing.”

Benefits of Cloud Computing

  • Removes the guesswork that impacts the bottom line
    Business owners no longer need to fret over choosing the right hardware brand or configuration. They subscribe to receive the necessary hardware to run their business for a monthly fee based on usage. Plus, with cloud computing, if staff size increases or decreases, the organization is never left with excess hardware inventory, software licenses, or support for the delivery of storage space and applications. And there is no need to replace obsolete equipment.
  • Removes the burden of technology management
    With cloud computing, the burden of managing technology is placed on the technology provider. If you rent a Windows server, it is up to the company to store the server, make sure you receive the space you are paying for, etc. The same applies for software cloud computing. If you use Google docs, it is Google’s responsibility to make sure that your documents aren’t lost, that you have enough space to create more, etc.
  • Removes limitations
    Cloud computing frees business owners previously limited by the capabilities of local computers, servers, or IT infrastructure. There is no more stressing over adequate storage space or access to certain applications or programs.
  • Cost effective
    Cloud computing reduces in-house IT infrastructure costs. With cloud computing, there is no capital expenditure, less investment risk, and a consistent average monthly fee based on usage (as opposed to financing a big software purchase and installation up front). This means predictable operating expenses and easier budgeting.

Wondering how to determine if cloud computing services make sense for your organization?  If you are looking for a low cost, low control solution, it might be worth evaluating.  For example, if your sales department is like most others in business, you can try a product that is already configured for most sales teams—Salesforce.com.  But if you tend to have highly specialized interactions with your prospects, such a broadly used solution may not be right for you.

Is Cloud Computing Right for the SMB Organization?
Not just yet. Cloud computing technologies as they exist now are the most beneficial to medium and large businesses with multiple servers and high-availability application needs. Cost savings will be realized in these types of environments first.

If your organization has a few servers, cloud computing isn’t quite ready for you. It will be more expensive and riskier without adding much more value. Not to worry, though—your time is coming. Right around the corner is a technology that combines cloud computing and virtualization—a hardware and software service combination.  Soon enough, small and mid-sized businesses will be able to implement cloud computing in a scalable way, charged on a per-usage basis for hardware and software services within your own network.  It will certainly be a development worth waiting for.

Last Word
The IT service provider and user landscape is changing. Complete networks without large server rooms, complex installations facilitated by a simple email or phone call, reasonable bills for services based on usage—all of these changes are in the near future for the small-to-mid-sized organization. Hardware and software as a service will provide access to enterprise-class technology that is affordable and easily scalable. Get ready!

 

Have questions about the information contained within this article? Or is there a new technology you would like to learn more about? We want to hear from you! Email us at [email protected].

 

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