As a business person and entrepreneur who is President of a technology company that provides support services to small to midsized companies, I always look at technology as a tool to provide me a competitive advantage and want to insure my customers are investing in technology to run the business, not let technology run the business. With any new technology it is easy to get caught up in the glamor of something new. Cloud computing can provide some real cost savings and efficiencies in an organization, so the new technology is real, but it is not for everyone.
Cloud computing is a technology that uses the Internet and centralized remote servers to maintain data and applications. Cloud computing allows businesses to use applications without installation and access their personal files at any computer with Internet access. There are really three segments to cloud computing: Application, Platform, and Infrastructure.
So, what does this mean to you? If your application is in the cloud, all you need is an Internet connection and you can get started. Since this technology is still fairly new, the cloud based applications are applications like Salesforce.com. You pay a modest monthly subscription fee and do not have to license software or purchase hardware to run the application. One of the biggest cost savings is internal IT costs. No internal or external management of equipment, software, patches, etc. Another example is instead of investing in an Exchange Email server hardware and licensing, you can move your email to a provider that has a private cloud and still enjoy all the cost savings of moving to the cloud instead of investing in hardware and software to run the applications. Right now one of the biggest draw backs is many application providers are small to midsized companies, not giants like Google or Microsoft, so adopting their application software may take years and still require a server on site to run the application. Some Managed Service Providers (MSP) may have their own data centers and may be able to still house your servers saving you some overhead.
Many businesses will migrate over time to a cloud solution. A typical business may be using a CRM system like SalesForce.com, use Microsoft for email, but have a MSP host the email services, and use an MSP to handle all back up services in the cloud. A business has reduced the internal over head associated with these functions dramatically while still maintaining the proper equipment needs to utilize its industry specific application software. If your MSP has the platform and infrastructure they recommend a virtual desktop solution and move you completely to the cloud. Spam, virus, spyware, etc. virtually all disappear, again saving the organization thousands of lost productivity time.
With any new technology there is not a one size fits all solution, and many MSPs and service providers all have their own idea of cloud computing. The key is not to invest in cloud computing for the sake of saying you’re “in the cloud”, but to determine what applications give you the financial payback of moving to the cloud and partnering with a service provider that has the depth to execute the plan. Too many times I see companies that think they are on the technological for front, but have actually taken two steps backward. The only constant in the world of technology is change!
by Phil Lieber
P & L Technology