By: Brian Jensen: November 11th, 2012
Cloud computing has been around for a while now, but because of the initial startup investments, a lot of small businesses have not yet made the jump to this new technology. In some cases, this may be a wise decision, because the tools and resources the cloud offers might not be necessary in such a small office. However, the cloud has made it possible for SMBs to access powerful tools and services – enough that it’s actually possible for them to compete on some level with much larger companies
Most cloud solutions can be divided into two categories: public and private clouds. Both of them have some benefits and drawbacks that could impact the costs and productivity in your small office, so it’s important to understand the differences.
The Public Cloud
You will likely often hear that public clouds are the easiest way for small businesses to start employing the technology. To an extent, this is true. Publically available clouds mean lower overhead, no need to invest in a lot of new hardware or IT people to manage it all and you may even be able to purchase the service with operational funds instead of as a capital expenditure. This is a good way to access or distribute important apps, scale your services as needed, and store important backups off site.
However, this option can raise concerns about privacy, security, data integrity, compatibility and more. When you don’t control every aspect of your cloud services, there is a possibility that you could face poor performance from the provider, unexpected downtime, lost data, and other possible problems. So while this is a cost effective way to get started in the cloud, it may not be the best choice if your company deals with major security concerns.
The Private Cloud
If you are able to make the necessary hardware investments, you will be able to offer cloud services from inside the corporate firewall. This means that you can have much greater control over the security, performance and bandwidth. You can offer software updates and support end-user productivity on the server side of things and avoid having to update every application manually.
The biggest drawback to a private cloud setup is the cost and time required to manage the system. You will need someone who understands the cloud and has the experience to keep it running properly. It’s a powerful tool when it’s working right, though, and a many small businesses are going this route.
Is Cloud Computing for You?
Before a small business decides which cloud computing option will be the most effective, it must first decide whether the cloud offers enough of a benefit in the first place. Managers and owners need to ask if this new technology (including off-site backups, virtualization and other related services) will help them reach their goals. Ask yourself how much your business will have to change to accommodate the new technology, and whether those costs will be justified once the services are in place.
You might also look at your current usage trends. Will you use these applications consistently throughout the year, or will there be a lot of seasonal variation? Would a hybrid solution be more beneficial, so you can keep the mission critical software and data on a private cloud and host the more variable aspects off site? Take some time to consider these questions and weigh your options to determine if you business is ready to make the change.
Brian Jensen works with Dell. In his spare time he enjoys traveling, cooking and spending time with his family. He has a passion for learning and writing about all things technology. He is currently learning more about cloud computing and other business solutions and would recommend following this link to learn more.