It’s no revelation that the cloud has changed the way businesses operate. Odds are you’ve heard the term “cloud computing” thrown around in blog posts, advertisements and even TV shows. Yet, when you sit around your office selling your small staff on this new technological advancement, definitions start to get a little cloudy. As more companies deliver their services over the Internet, it makes sense for small businesses to ditch their traditional business processes for more Web-oriented services.
Navigating the world of cloud services
Cloud services fall into one of three categories: infrastructure as a service, platform as a service or software as a service. The big idea, and real draw of cloud services is access. In the cloud you’re not paying for ownership, but rather the ability to access and use powerful computing services on a subscription basis. Here just a few of the most common types of cloud services that are changing the way small companies conduct business:
— Storage. Cloud storage is probably the most widely used type of SaaS. Services like DropBox, Google Drive and Box.net have paved the way for individuals to store and manage massive amounts of data in the cloud without paying hundreds — maybe even thousands — of dollars on complex physical storage systems. They aren’t very useful for large organizations, but there are plenty of cloud hosting companies that provide enterprise cloud storage solutions.
— Backup. Cloud backup technology has solved disaster recovery issues for many companies. With cloud backup, companies can easily back up mission critical data to a third-party, offsite location. Not all cloud backup services are created equal, though; small businesses should check a cloud backup solution’s record in disaster recovery.
— Virtualization. Historically, virtualization has been pricey, with all the licensing and general costs of hypervisors and virtualization platform management. Cloud virtual machines allow small companies to have powerful virtualization technology at their fingertips at a fraction of the price.
— Infrastructure. The nature of small business data management is that these small companies and startups can’t afford powerful servers to power their infrastructure. Cloud servers and other infrastructure resources allow small companies access to powerful computing at a small business price.
Benefits of cloud services
— Reliability. Traditional data management relies on unstable tape drives and physical servers that need to be upgraded and managed regularly. In the cloud, small businesses don’t have to worry about upgrades, maintenance and downtime. The good and bad news is that all of that responsibility is on the cloud provider.
— Scalability. Small businesses need to have solutions that scale. Physical, dedicated infrastructure is expensive to scale up, whereas the cloud is elastic.
— Affordability. Startups can and should only pay for the services they use. Cloud services are on-demand, which means that companies only pay for what they use. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Like any new technology, things aren’t all nice and rosy in the cloud. Customers need to prepare themselves for switching by educating themselves and asking cloud hosts about security, privacy and stability. As cloud providers continue to build upon their already robust infrastructures, security, stability and privacy issues are among the most important things being addressed by companies all over the world.