Cloud for the small business - is it worth it

Cloud for the small business – Is it worth it?

Information Technology is a slave to fashion in just the same way as any other area of business.  The current trend is the adoption of cloud computing.   Basically, cloud computing transfers your applications and data onto a virtual desktop on a server, and you use Internet techniques to reach them.   The server can be a local server hosted in your business, (a private cloud) or a remote server supporting the virtual desktop environment and cloud storage for business managed by a cloud computing services provider (a public cloud).

Small businesses are not immune to the trend. A study by Intuit found that over 75% of small businesses will be using cloud computing services by 2020.  The $100,000-dollar question for a small business owner to ask is “Is It Worth It”? What financial and operational benefits will a move to the virtual desktop bring?

Most small business owners, unless they are in the IT business, use IT as a business tool.  Because they are busy running the business, they do not have the time to manage their IT infrastructure.  They are not interested.

Cloud for the small business - is it worth it

Managing your own IT brings with it the capital and recurrent costs of creating and maintaining your own IT infrastructure and keeping it running day to day.

Many small businesses outsource their IT needs to a service supplier, usually supplemented by an in-house “expert” who acts as the front-line support and the interface between the company and the service provider.   They can do this as a retained services contract, or on an as-required basis.

That is a lot of time, effort and money that could probably be better spent on developing the business.

Moving to an outsourced private or public cloud removes the operational IT headache.  Replacing the variable IT costs of your own infrastructure with the capped costs of a cloud computing services provider makes perfect business sense.

If a point of departure is that there are valid reasons for a small business to consider moving to the cloud, then the follow-up questions are: is moving to the cloud feasible; and if so, whether a private or public cloud is the better business decision.

A public cloud is provided by an external services provider.  The business outsources the client IT infrastructure to a cloud computing services provider, (“CSP”) who provides cloud solutions for business to several clients on shared cloud storage for business.

A private cloud is the same as a public cloud but is dedicated to a single organisation.  A private cloud can be provided by an external CSP or internally use the organisation’s own IT infrastructure.  The CSP can dedicate one of many installations to a single client, or be a CSP who has one client only.   An increasingly popular choice in larger businesses with an established IT infrastructure is to host cloud technologies internally inside the organisation’s firewall, supported by the organisation’s own IT services, an outsourced service provider or a combination of both.

First thought – moving to a private cloud that the business maintains does not address the financial or operational issues.   That leaves the options of a private cloud operated on the existing infrastructure in a fully outsourced environment, or a public cloud provided and maintained by a cloud computing services provider.

The final considerations include:

  1. If it is critical to keep prying eyes away from business applications and data, then a public cloud is not feasible.  The risks are too great.  Outsourcing support to a private cloud managed by a cloud computing services provider might not be an option either.
  2. If the business needs 24/7/365 access to mission-critical systems, moving to an external cloud platform with all the potential downtime risks may not be an option.
  3. Is budget available to upgrade the existing infrastructure to support a private cloud, or can the outsourcing contract include the upgrade and maintenance costs?

Given that the business meets the criteria to be able to move to a cloud platform, the answer to the question “Is It Worth It” must be yes. It allows the business owner to spend more time and effort investing in his business.  It provides, if not direct cost savings, a known cap on costs. Importantly, it removes one headache from the business owner’s life.