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Your Small Business and “The Cloud”

Do cloud services make sense for small businesses?

Businessman hand working with a Cloud Computing diagram on the new computer interface as concept-2

The onslaught of the cloud services are here. 

But does it make sense for the small business?  That question is tough to answer.  It truly depends on your business environment, the size of your business, and what types of applications your business runs.

So, what is the cloud?  Cloud services essentially mean that instead of having an application that you utilize hosted in your office, you utilize the same application hosted by a provider out on the internet.  The easiest example is email.  Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo mail, and Office 365 are all examples of utilizing cloud services for mail.  You access these programs through your browser or email client but the back end servers running the programs are hosted by the providing companies in a remote location.

Another easy example that is offsite backup.  We install a program on your server and data is encrypted and sent to the offsite backup locations hosted by the provider, in the cloud.

The advantage of this type of structure, in theory, is leveraging the huge infrastructure of the cloud providers thus getting the 99.9% type uptime, system redundancy, access from anywhere you have an internet connection, and lower ongoing maintenance costs.  Depending on the application and the service provider, backups would be another potential advantage of cloud based services.

So, do cloud services make sense for your business?

In our opinion the main item to try and evaluate is whether or not you need a server.  For example, if your industry specific application does not offer its software in the cloud and requires you to have a server, then you already are required to have a server so you should leverage it.  So you may not need the cloud.

If the size of your data files is large or the quantity of your data is large, this may hinder your ability to function well in the cloud.  If your industry specific software is cloud based and your file requirements are not robust, then cloud services very well could be a viable option for you.

The bottom line is a big deal for most small businesses and unfortunately this is a bit harder to quantify when comparing cloud services to traditional in-house server bases solutions.  The straight numbers are easy, a server is good for 6 years and the cost of the server for the next 6 years is X.  The same costs for 6 years of comparable cloud services are Y.  The delta gives you a starting point.  The harder part to quantify is what type of support is needed for either solution over that same 6 year period.  And even harder still is what type of potential downtime exists for either solution and the cost to your organization from that.

The cloud is here and most likely not going away anytime soon.  It may or may not be the right methodology for your organization.  But we certainly think it deserves a look by most small businesses.