Could your business be ready for ‘Cloud’? [Part One]
Cloud computing is the latest tech talking point, but how could it help your business today?
For a number of years now there has been talk, deliberation and confusion over the term ‘Cloud Computing’. The concept is most often associated in relation to making business IT more dynamic, but what exactly does ‘Cloud Computing’ mean in real terms?
One definition is “the use of a remote network of servers that are hosted on the internet as opposed to using a localised server machine, to hold, store, recover, manage and process data”. In even simpler terms, as opposed to being on-site the servers that host your websites, emails, data and applications are accessed via the internet.
Cloud computing services are undoubtedly a significant opportunity to improve the way IT is bought, used and managed by SMEs. In fact, many of us are now using cloud computing services everyday without even realising it. From sharing images with friends on Facebook or Flicker, to sharing contacts and backing up mobile devices on platforms such as iCloud, all such applications require a cloud-type model. You are probably using a cloud service right now.
Such services bring about a number of exciting advantages for a business owner, their staff and those responsible for their IT. The key benefits of Cloud Computing are:
- Reduced IT costs – as there is no need to buy a physical server costs are lower.
- Improved agility – scalable resources mean that the solution can flex according to your business needs.
- Accessibility – enjoy ubiquitous access wherever, whenever via the Internet.
- Chargeability – pay only for what you use and lease such services as needed.
- Resilience and security – data is protected by industry experts rather than you.
Nevertheless, whilst such aspects offer much potential, it is understandable that many SME owners can feel a bit nervous about losing physical servers from their premises. Research has found that data security is the primary concern of businesses considering cloud services, closely followed by connectivity and reliability. However, the studies have revealed that the vast majority of organisations that deployed Cloud services were satisfied with their experience and result. Furthermore, of those using existing cloud services, most expect to increase their use of them within the next 12 months.
As a business owner you must assess your individual business case as to whether Cloud services could be useful for you right now. Look at your business objectives, opportunities and goals in relation to growth and performance. Review your individual business circumstances against criteria such as need for mobility, seasonal surges, and income/cost patterns. All these areas should give clues as to whether flexible Cloud-based IT could offer you ways to enhance your operations.
Upon assessing your technical needs, the next step is to ensure you find the right supplier/partner for your function. The quality of the service, such as reliability and network speed, will be key to the success of your Cloud services. Before purchasing anything, be sure to talk in depth with Cloud providers. Think about shaping your purchasing decisions like so:
- Be clear on what you need and any constraints.
- Research providers who meet your overall objectives.
- Apply a fine filter to your shortlist.
- Understand each vendor’s capability and practice.
The good news is that there is a rapidly growing pool of resources online and in the media to help business owners and IT managers with their technology decisions. Web hosts are most experienced within this field so try to leverage all of their knowledge.
Fasthosts has recently introduced an IT Services Consultancy Programme, designed to help businesses find the right solution for their specific needs. Services such as this allow you to speak to skilled experts, well placed to discuss all your options and solutions, and help you to make decisions.
Although an eagerly sought option for most business models and IT setups, cloud services must be carefully considered in relation to the business model, scale and working environment. Depending on the complexity of a business’s IT infrastructure it may be advisable to move to the Cloud in a phased approach. Cloud services can easily and effectively be bolted-on to existing on-premise systems. Cloud services are definitely worth your consideration and when deployed correctly, can help you achieve a competitive advantage.
Join us tomorrow for the second part of “Could your business be ready for ‘Cloud’?” where we take a look at the top 5 things to consider when using Cloud solutions and reveal an interesting case study.