Photo above from Flickr
To Cloud or Not to Cloud?
These days, it seems that every website you visit has an advertisement for cloud services – Google Apps, Microsoft Office 365, and Salesforce.com just to name a few. It ‘s as if the world has gone cloud crazy. So, what’s the big deal? Isn’t this just Software as a Service v2.0? Many business owners are wondering if they should test the cloud waters or just keep the lights on given the current state of the economy.
Let’s peek our heads above the clouds to look at some of the pros and cons of cloud computing.
Cloud computing provides businesses with a “pay as you go” model for applications, infrastructure, and platforms. For example, let’s say you’re looking to start a business and need email, document storage, and collaboration tools, you could subscribe to Google Apps for Business or Microsoft’s Office 365 and be up and running the same day. No need to purchase expensive hardware, software, and licensing. Also, there’s no need to worry about upgrading on-premise servers to the latest software version. With cloud computing, the cloud providers handle system upgrades and your business gets the benefit of using the latest and greatest technology. Here are a few more benefits of cloud computing:
- Reduce Cap-Ex Spending – you subscribe to cloud computing services…no need to purchase expensive hardware, software, licenses.
- Reduce Op-Ex Costs – with fewer servers running proprietary software, you’ll have fewer maintenance contracts to renew every year
- Free-up IT Staff – reducing the number of systems that your internal IT staff has to install, maintain, and upgrade allows them to focus on business alignment and innovation. Yes, the IT department should be part of the innovation think tank!
OK, cloud computing sounds great, but what’s the catch? Security and privacy are two of the most common concerns that businesses have with the cloud. If you consume cloud services, then your data is stored outside of your control…out on the Internet. Where exactly is your data stored? Cloud providers such as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon have data centers around the world and you’re relying on them to secure your data. It’s their job to protect it from hackers. Another point of concern is your dependence on the Internet. As services are moved from on-premise to the cloud, you’ll need to make sure that your Internet connection is highly available and able to meet the performance needs of your staff. If you own a small business, the loss of Internet connectivity at the office may translate to you working from Starbucks while enjoying an espresso drink, but if your business employs 100 people, a prolonged outage is painful.
Cloud computing may not be a perfect fit for every business, but it can be a cost-effective way for companies of all sizes to use applications and to store data. Here at the Sparkline Group, we use Google Apps for email, archiving, and document storage in order to keep costs down and to enhance collaboration. We enjoy showing new and existing clients what can be done in the cloud an encourage them pilot cloud services to see what they have to offer.
Written by Zach Croxford, Partner