In reality, cloud computing may make even more sense for smaller companies that it does for large ones. Why? It’s because major corporations have major budgets for large IT staffs and in-house data centers. The idea is that if you integrate everything under your control, you’ll logically have the lowest costs, greatest security and fastest response times.
There are many cloud examples that prove this is obsolete reasoning. Hiring a specialist service, the cloud, can actually lower your costs, improve security and allow you to react to changes in business conditions much faster than doing it all yourself.
For smaller businesses, the cloud may well become your IT department or an adjunct to a consultant that works on a less than full time basis. Cloud service providers have the expertise in-house that you can’t really afford. This means that you can get top-notch support by people who are trained in the state of the art included as part of your monthly fee.
Let’s take a look at typical cloud computing solutions that are appropriate for small businesses. One service that nearly every business, including SOHO (Small Office, Home Office), is embracing is cloud backup storage. The value in remote backups is that even if your local office is wiped out by fire, flood or tornado, your business records remain safely intact. Storage tends to be very affordable and more cost effective than buying more and more stand alone disk drives. The beauty of the cloud is that you don’t have to worry about filling up the next disk drive. Storage is virtualized and nearly unlimited.
An extension of online storage is backup and disaster recovery. These systems give you an easy to use control panel so that you can figure out what files to bring back down when needed. One thing to remember about online backup is that the limiting factor to how fast you can upload and download is the speed of your bandwidth connection. It’s not much of a problem on upload because files are being transmitted in the background as you work. Only a little bit of data needs to be sent to the cloud every hour.
The real limitation is when your entire office or local file storage is wiped out. You’ll be glad you have backup storage in the cloud so you can stay in business, but it can take days or weeks to bring everything back down. You’ll need to pick and choose which files are most important to continuing business and get those back first. The rest can be restored as a background activity.
Some cloud solutions get around this by having mirrored storage in both the cloud and in a secure appliance located in your office. This makes it really easy and fast to get a file you may have accidentally deleted and fast to restore an entire system because so much of the data is local. Of course, if the disaster is extensive and all of your on-site equipment is destroyed, you’ll still need to get everything back from the cloud.
By the way, a big advantage of cloud solutions is that you can be quickly back in business at another location. This is especially true if some or all of your connectivity is via the Internet. Set up shop at home, a temporary rental office or at the local coffee shop. As long as you have bandwidth, you’re in business.
Web servers are another technology that makes sense in the cloud. Many companies already rent shared or dedicated server space from companies that specialize in selling these plans. There is no need for anything more sophisticated unless you have the type of business with such variations traffic that you wind up paying to support the maximum number of visitors possible. Cloud servers can be scaled up and down almost instantly. You pay only for what you need right now and add more capacity during the holiday season or other high traffic times.
The old fashioned way to get the computer tools you need for your business is to buy software packages and then spend some time maintaining and upgrading them over the years. The new approach is called SaaS or Software as a Service. The actual software resides on a cloud computing platform remotely. You use the office systems or specialized software by connecting to the cloud. The cloud provider takes care of patching and upgrading the system so you have no maintenance headaches and no need to invest in expensive software. Once again, you pay for how much you use by the month.
Security is now moving to the cloud. The truth is that few businesses have security experts on staff and the attacks are getting bolder and more sophisticated. A simple anti-virus program may no longer be enough to prevent an intrusion or shutdown of your business. The way to have the latest network security is to buy a cloud based solution that acts as a firewall between your business and any potential trouble makers. Like software, security as a service is maintained by experts who have nothing else to do but stay on top of threats.
Finally, even your telephone service may make more sense in the cloud. Hosted PBX or Hosted VoIP systems move all the call switching to a cloud service provider that also makes the connection to the public phone system. All you have at your location is IP telephones and perhaps a specialized gateway device. You pay by the phone by the month and some providers even include new business phones as part of the deal at no extra cost.
Is it time to reconsider the costs and performance of the IT systems used in your small business? There are great deals to be had that can help you avoid investments, lower expenses and keep up with the latest technology. Get competitive quotes from cloud computing providers and see what works best for your company.