Solving the Cloud Mystery for Small Businesses

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Feb 182016
 

Solving the Cloud Mystery for Small Businesses

By Nicole Dyess

What “cloud” really means is using Internet services for file sharing, email, document sharing, etc. Rather than storing files on your local network, the files get stored back up on the remote server. The remote server is maintained by the cloud services company. Email has been used this way for years: you purchase email hosting on a monthly basis and never think about the server housing its contents. All of that server side storage is done remotely through an Internet connection. Cloud services are generally cheaper and the costs to implement and maintain are much lower than housing your own internal server.

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                                        Solving the Cloud Mystery for Small Businesses

An in-house server is good for those types of systems where you want to keep your data on site, within your own business network. A good example is a hospital which houses its own data center. Some services may be used online, but those services that require 24/7 access are maintained on campus. Unless you have redundant Internet connections, there is always a possibility you can lose your connection. Additional costs are associated with housing a server; you need to pay for the hardware, keep backups of it, and hopefully have off-site redundancy in case of a fire/flood/etc.

The advantages of owning a server in-house include minimal downtime, and better application performance and speed, (depending on the type of applications you are using. ) If its important for you to control your own system and have the data at your place of business, owning a server may be the way to go. The disadvantage is the costs to maintain (including back ups, up keep, security, end of life, etc) for the server. You also need to make sure you have redundant power in case of a power failure. Usually, this is minimalized by purchasing a UPS that the server plugs into, as well as the regular power from an outlet.

The first step for a small business is to write out a list of business functions/problems an IT solution would solve for you. For example, a small business may require the following:

Types of Services

  • email
  • document sharing
  • Video conferencing
  • Database application

Important questions to ask

  • Do any of these systems hold confidential data which needs extra security or encryption?
  • What are your up time requirements? Is minimal downtime acceptable or unacceptable?
  • Can the systems be accessed in-house and remote, or are they only accessible to be accessed in-house?
  • Are there hidden costs or fees associated with the cloud computing services? Be sure to ask about maintenance contracts and the type of technical support available.
  • What are the hardware/software requirements for accessing the cloud computing services?

Some cloud companies offer a package that addresses each solution, or you can choose bits and pieces of each. As far as housing your own server goes, one modern day server would be sufficient to manage several types of small business applications.

Nicole Dyess runs Geeky Moms, a business devoted to inspiring women to use technology to their advantage.

Join the free Geeky Moms community and unleash the geek!

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Nov 212011
 

What Is Cloud Computing? – 12 Facts Every Small to Medium Sized Business Owner Should Know

By Nick Graham

Background

In the last 3 years dramatic changes have been taking place in how business computing happens, especially in larger companies. Traditionally companies build their own IT infrastructure, buy expensive equipment and servers and install everything locally. They need to keep hardware running, software compliant while making sure that the information input and output actually meets company needs.

Things have changed. With the advent of Cloud Computing a company can have reliable and safe business computing delivered like a utility service. Today we no longer dig wells for water, or run our own generator for electricity. These services are available as a utility service. So too with IT, you can “buy” IT infrastructure as a service, pay for what you need, and focus on the business not the technology.

1.What is Cloud Computing?

Computing delivered over the internet like a utility service that can be accessed by any device that has internet connection. Computing horsepower is located and happens outside the company on external servers, so no computing hardware needs to be owned and operated by the company. In fact, a well-known market research company, Gartner, has estimated that by the end of 2012, 20% of all companies will own no IT assets! The move to the cloud is underway.

2.What would full Cloud Computing look like in my office?

Imagine your server room or server area gone, no more major capital expenditures on equipment and facilities. Imagine desktops that don’t crash and hard drives that don’t fail, but with the same user experience. Imagine a secure safe environment for your systems and data taken care of by experts not on your direct payroll for a flat monthly fee that covers everything at a lower cost than you currently pay. This is what Cloud Computing can look like NOW.

3.Why isn’t everybody doing it?

Big companies have commonly been using Cloud Computing technology for a while now. Now smaller companies are increasingly changing to this way of running IT. Specialized managed IT companies are helping these smaller companies move their IT to the cloud and then run their IT efficiently – and this is accelerating the trend.

4.With Cloud Computing do you have to buy servers?

No. There is no cost burden of server ownership and therefore no expensive capital expenditure. You buy “server use” from a virtual server created for you in an external data center and pay for it by means of a simple monthly fee.

5.Company specific software

In a Cloud Computing setup, a company’s current servers, with their existing enterprise software, is transitioned over to newly created virtual servers which are theirs only. The company accesses everything as before as normal, with the exception that it is now communicated over the internet not the company’s local area network.

6.How Cloud Computing can get rid of PCs

With a full Cloud Computing implementation there are no servers or PCs at the business locations. Data is securely protected and continuously monitored on servers in a safe local physical environment and backed up behind a firewall. All PCs are changed to “Virtualized Desktops”. Employees will have a Thin Client, mouse, keyboard and screen but nothing will change in their computing experience. They will be looking at their screens with all their familiar programs such as Office, Outlook, etc.. They will be able to save to “My Docs” and other drives as normal.

The cloud management company will take care of equipment, Microsoft software licensing, antivirus, Spam Filtering, Security, secure backup, server and virtual desktop monitoring, and all the other IT headaches that you would rather not worry about. It’s easy to add desktops as you grow, or take them away just as easily if you need to downsize, paying for what you need.

7.Cloud Computing and the IT person /department

The typical IT person working in or for a company is spending up to 80% of their time keeping stuff up-and-running – PCs, hard drives, updates to office software, virus spam protection issues. It’s “busy work” which does nothing to improve the company’s performance. With a Cloud Computing solution a company does not have to spend time on these activities. More time can be spent on activities that support the business; or, if appropriate, staff can be cut or redeployed.

8.Can Cloud Computing save money?

It is easy to forget how much Information Technology is costing. As well as the “Hard Costs” like cost of hardware, infrastructure, software licenses, there are the more intangible “Soft Costs” such as IT staffing, troubleshooting, energy costs to run the servers and desktops and cool the server room and building. Typically you should be looking for fully costed savings in the area of 30-50% a year. With these levels of savings a business owner should, at the very least, be looking at Cloud Computing in their organization.

9.IT people often say Cloud Computing is less secure than in-house infrastructure. Is this true?

Typically because of the physical security and data security used, cloud security protection is almost always much better than most local company networks. Security over the internet is extremely high with firewalls that form barriers and which are monitored continually. Advanced backup and data recovery mean even a catastrophe can be quickly recovered from. And because all the company data is held on the company’s remote servers and is not being held all over the place (such as on local hard drives, thumb drives etc.) the likelihood of software and data contamination and theft is reduced.

10. What happens if a cloud server goes down or there is a catastrophic loss of data?

This is a very important topic. Companies frequently think that their own server rooms are somehow immune from catastrophe and they are also very often woefully under-prepared for a disaster. Simply doing tape backups, putting tapes in fireproof boxes and other methods can give a false sense of security. The reality is if disaster strikes, you need the very latest backup data recovery technology so that you can be up and running in minutes or hours not days or weeks or never! Cloud computing solutions typically take incremental snapshots backed up to multiple locations physically elsewhere to ensure you will be up and running again very quickly.

11.Moving Offices if you are using Cloud Computing

Moving offices or facilities is trivial when a company has a Cloud Computing setup. Because the infrastructure is in place (separate from the old and new company facilities) data can be accessed from anywhere. In theory once the internet connection to the new location is up and running the whole company can be up and running and back to normal as fast as thin clients can be hooked up to the internet!

12.Mobile Computing

With Cloud Computing, your Virtual Desktop can be accessed anywhere and anytime. Other solutions require your office PC to be turned on, and your office Internet connection to be live. Most Internet connected devices, such as laptops, tablets, smart-phones, can be used to connect to your desktop. Imagine being able to run Excel, PowerPoint or any of your business specific software from an iPad or a smart-phone! And security remains at a high level for remote access since only keystroke and screen refresh is sent between the data center and your smart device, but no actual data.

In summary, the benefits of moving to the cloud are great. Cloud computing already is increasingly the way IT is being handled, and owners would therefore be wise to take a look at and embrace the technology now.

Nick Graham is VP at Consilien LLC, a company that has been delivering Information Technology Services since 2001, in the LA, Riverside and Orange County area.
Having run a number of small and medium businesses his mission now is to expose as many business owners as possible to the huge benefits of installing 21st century cloud computing into their companies.
Nick invites you to take a closer look at how to do this easily by going to:- http://www.consilien.com

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