Can Cloud Computing Providers Help Small Business?

We often get asked what cloud computing providers can do for a small business, and whether it is a worthwhile investment. Quite honestly, it is not for everyone, and there are a number of criteria a business should be able to meet before considering these types of services.It is important to first define what cloud computing really is, as it is such a generic term that can mean a lot of different things depending on the context in which it is used.  It’s a bit like saying ‘car’-- did you mean a shiny new Mercedes, or a 1975 Datsun? When you boil it down, it basically means accessing a shared computer resource over the internet.

Why are cloud computing providers "in" right now

There are two  major driving forces that have brought about the cloud computing trend.Firstly, decent internet access.  Most homes and businesses in the developed world can get ADSL2 or better.Secondly, computing power effectively doubles every 18 months see Moore’s law on Wikipedia.   When you combine this with virtualisation technologies like VMware, you get a business case for renting out server resources. Now this takes a number of common forms.Infrastructure – You basically rent raw CPU, memory and storage resources. Amazon EC2 is an example of this model.Platform – You rent the Infrastructure plus the operating system.  Windows Azure and our inCloud Application Hosting service are examples.Application – You rent everything bundled together, often delivered as a web application such as Google Apps or Office365.

So what’s in it for the Small Business Owner?

  1. Cost Reduction - Over time, it is often cheaper to rent the shared resources, then buy, install maintain, and replace your own servers.
  2. Increased functionality and mobility - You can typically access ‘cloud’ services from home, on your smartphone and tablet, which in the majority of cases means improved efficiency in day to day operations.

Because cloud computing providers make a living out of delivering these sorts of services, they can achieve economies of scale which brings the costs of delivering these services relatively low.

What are the downsides?

  1. You need to be connected to the internet to access your cloud service.  If the application is mission critical, it is a good idea to have a backup internet link.
  2. It is not always easy to remove your data from a hosted cloud service.  It is good to know what the process is beforehand.

Things to consider or ask your provider

Latency – this is the time it takes for data to travel to the server and back. Is the server located in Australia or overseas? If the server is on the other side of the world, it will respond much slower than if it was located in Sydney or Melbourne.Data Sovereignty -  Do you need to have your data stored in Australia? Try Googling “US Patriot Act and data privacy” if you want more information on this.Multi-tenancy – Is your data isolated from other tenants on the same server?  How does the provider keep you data secure?Bandwidth – Will ADSL suffice or do you need to upgrade to something business grade like  Metro Ethernet?If you want to know if a public, private or hybrid cloud is right for your business, feel free to get in contact with us.

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