Cloud computing technology offers both time- and money-saving benefits, which makes it a great fit for small business. As cloud computing benefits become more tangible, more small businesses are moving to the cloud. Still, as with any technology, you don’t want to jump in without proper preparation.
First, it is important to recognize that there are several fundamentally different approaches to cloud computing, including:
- Public cloud: The cloud infrastructure is made available to the general public or to a large industry group and is owned by an organization selling cloud services. Most commonly used services here are application-specific — for example, Salesforce.com or Microsoft Office 365 — and pricing is often on a simple, cost-per-seat-per-month basis.
- Private cloud: The cloud infrastructure is operated solely for one organization. It may be managed by the organization itself or by a third party, and it may exist on premises or off-premises. CDW’s Cloud Computing Tracking Poll found that most IT decision makers, in SMB as well as other markets, would prefer the private option. However, the private option requires more knowledge and capabilities to manage, so getting there is a challenge for many organizations, and it is not for everyone.
Cloud computing has a lot to offer, and for small businesses with limited resources, public cloud services offer especially attractive benefits. For example, using applications in the public cloud can help address networking issues without requiring small businesses to invest in their own servers or expand their IT staff.
With public cloud services, businesses pay only for the seats or capacity they use at any given time, which is ideal for small business IT budgets. However, before making the move, small businesses need to be sure that they have a clear picture of all that the cloud entails, and then determine whether it is the right solution for them.
Make a Cloud Computing Plan
The availability and cost of public cloud services makes starting so easy that many IT departments discover some of their employees are using them before the IT team even has a plan. However, a plan — even a simple one — is essential to get the most value from cloud services. Look at how your IT staff spends its time and budget, and consider cloud services that will take pressure off them. For example:
• Software management: Is your business challenged by support and management requirements for widely used applications? A cloud-based service such as Microsoft Office 365 usually includes support and certainly eliminates the requirement to do patches and upgrades at every client device.
• What is the current state of your data storage? Are your storage needs close to exceeding your physical capacity? According to CDW’s Cloud Computing Tracking Poll, storage services are one of the most commonly used cloud applications.
Some businesses, as their servers near end of life, consider moving at least a significant portion of their infrastructure requirements to the cloud — the variant of cloud called infrastructure-as-a-service, or IaaS. Comparing the cost of using IaaS versus the cost of owning and managing data center equipment is a more complicated calculation. But transferring less critical items, or backup data, to the cloud can help reduce the time you spend managing less important data and avoid having to upgrade onsite storage.
It’s important to understand that cloud computing is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Each business is unique, with varying budgets and capacities, so your business may need a custom solution. The unique requirements of small businesses make cloud computing customization a key selling point to companies that may be undecided about cloud computing.