IT

Head in the Clouds: Is Your Business Ready to Soar?

  • by Jacob Dominick

Everyone Else is Moving to the Cloud, Why Not Me?

Moving IT services and infrastructure to the cloud is quickly becoming a landslide trend in small to medium business – it’s more cost-effective and requires less maintenance which is certainly attractive, but there are disadvantages to consider that may not make it the right solution for your business.

There is No Cloud, Just Someone Else’s Computer

First off, what do we mean by cloud-based services?  The definition of a cloud-based service is one where someone else hosts a computer or server on the Internet with services that you rent and make use of over your Internet connection.

Cloud services fall into one of several categories:

  • Software as a Service (SaaS) –This is the most popular type of cloud service and the one most commonly leveraged by small businesses. The cloud application is available through a web browser or client application installed on your PCs, is customized for your use either by yourself or by a vendor, and the service is only available with an Internet connection.  Some examples of this are Office 365, Slack, or Sharefile.
  • Platform as a service (PaaS) – In these services, the customer is given a framework to build their own custom solution on top of – the vendor provides a configured customizable environment for the customer to more easily create the custom solution they need. Examples of this would include Microsoft Azure, Sharepoint, or hosted web package platforms such as WordPress.
  • Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) – This is the lowest level of the cloud; basic foundation services that are utilized by other cloud-based platforms. Storage, virtual servers, database hosting are all IaaS services that are used to support other cloud infrastructure – examples include Amazon S3 services or Rackspace hosted servers.

Most small businesses that do not develop or customize their own software platforms will only ever use SaaS type cloud services.  PaaS/IaaS are more for businesses with at least part of their infrastructure or product offerings already dependent on the cloud.

“If someone asks me what cloud computing is, I try not to get bogged down with definitions. I tell them that, simply put, cloud computing is a better way to run your business.”
-Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, @Benioff

The Cloud Lets Your Business Fly…

The advantages of cloud computing are apparent on the surface:

  • Reduced infrastructure and maintenance – You don’t need to maintain an expensive onsite server or maintain a resilient network at the office to host your own private mail server. You can access your office applications from a smartphone or inexpensive laptop just as easily as from a powerful desktop computer.  Pushing all the heaving lifting up to the cloud makes you more agile and reduces your IT costs and need for support.
  • Secure collaboration on the go – You can have a flexible office in the cloud with access to your business anytime, anywhere, as long as you can reach the Internet. It also allows for greater collaboration not only between your teams but also with your customers, as you can often share access or provide direct access to resources through these platforms.  You don’t have to connect to your VPN to ensure secure access to your information, the security is baked right into the cloud-delivered app.
  • It’s universal and fast to deploy – Working on a Mac or a Linux PC? Laptop gathering dust since you fell in love with your iPad?  No problem, most cloud-based apps are platform independent and do not require special purchases to use them on your terms.  Most cloud apps require minimal setup on the client side, so once your service is set up you’re ready to take off.
  • Disaster-resistant and environment-friendly – if your office floods or has a fire and your infrastructure is in the cloud, you won’t miss a beat in terms of keeping your business running with cloud-based services as your backbone. Also, cloud computing can decrease your energy usage by as much as 90 percent over traditional network infrastructure, cutting both costs and your carbon footprint in one sweep.

…But Be Sure to Pack a Parachute

The cloud isn’t without its disadvantages – you should carefully consider these potential pitfalls when evaluating whether any cloud-based solution is right for your business.

  • Internet service is critical – Using the cloud for your business applications is great until your ISP connection goes out. When the internet goes down, so does your business – and there is no ISP in the world that doesn’t have outages.  You can make your business more resilient to this by having a backup Internet connection with a separate provider, or even with a cellular backup connection.
  • Cost is spread out, but adds up – While cloud-based services are inexpensive to start up and easy to deploy, the costs add up over time. It can be expensive and time consuming to set up a server onsite and maintain it, but sometimes that can be cheaper in the long run over an ongoing monthly cost.  Be sure you compare your costs for any cloud solution to an in-house solution when planning a cloud-based move.
  • Who am I trusting my data with? – Security and stability are often cited as reasons for going with an on site solution over a cloud-based one. Your information is only as secure as your cloud provider, and some are more reliable than others.  It seems like every month there is a new data breach or password leak at a major cloud company – security awareness by both the cloud provider and by your team can be the difference between success and failure for your business.  Also, there is no provider that has 100% uptime – if their services go down for some reason, you’re just as stuck as if you went down.  Make sure you choose your cloud vendors based on stability and reputation, not just price.

“Discontinued products and services are nothing new, of course, but what is new with the coming of the cloud is the discontinuation of services to which people have entrusted a lot of personal or otherwise important data…”
-Nicholas Carr, author of books about technology and culture

Small Enough to Make a Difference

The smaller and less centralized your business is, the more sense it makes to move to cloud-based services.  Small businesses with agile infrastructures typically see the most cost/benefit gains from a cloud move, while medium to large businesses should be more deliberate and cautious since the ongoing and migration costs of a large deployment can make a cloud move less attractive for them.

You can be more successful in your move to the cloud if you understand how it works and how best to avoid the pitfalls of a cloud based solution.  IT as an industry is on a steady march towards decentralized cloud-based services for everything – making your business ready for the environment of tomorrow starts by asking the right questions today to prepare.

Lost in the clouds? 

Don’t worry, we’re here with the expert help you need.  Ask us how we can help your business make the transition and identify whether cloud-based services are right for you.  We can even take your business to the next level by reducing your IT infrastructure worries to zero:

Hardware as a Service (HaaS) through INETCO lets you pay a monthly fee for us to provide all of your desktop and laptop computers, keep them up to date, and replace them as needed.  Upgrades, service, support, all of these worries are lifted off your shoulders so that you can focus on your business and not your IT infrastructure.

Ask our sales team about Hardware as a Service, and we’ll show you how we can take all the headache and distractions out of IT so you can get back to making your business soar.

 

Jacob Dominick
Lead Support Analyst, INETCO LLC.
jacob@inetco-llc.com