Cloud computing is a game-changer for entrepreneurs or start-ups. The concept is simple: cloud computing is based on a utility-based IT services model. A business only pays for what it uses.
Cloud is the single key factor that promises to turn small business into big business in no time. By using cloud services, your business can now cost-effectively access advanced IT technology that was too complex and expensive before, and which was typically only available to big corporates.
Now your business no longer needs to allocate capital expenditure towards purchasing the underlying IT infrastructure, including network, servers, security and expensive software, which could easily lock you into a cost structure for over 5 years.
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Your business also doesn’t need to pay for bulk services such as software licences, which you may or may not utilise as you grow and shrink.
Instead of making a fixed capital purchase, your business will now receive a monthly or, in some cases, an hourly bill for the IT services you consume. Costs scale up and down depending on the number of IT users or services added on-demand.
Which cloud services model is for me?
Cloud has become the new buzzword and it’s advisable to educate yourself and demystify all the various terminology before you start your journey.
Software as a Service (SaaS) is a cloud service model where you access full applications running on a cloud provider’s infrastructure. With this small businesses can now afford the same business systems previously only available to large organisations with big IT budgets.
Your applications are accessible from various devices like mobile phones or through your PC’s web browser on the internet. For most small business this is simplest way to get you IT systems up and functional fast.
There is a wide range of applications available to companies today, including accounting, HR and CRM packages, e-mail, Office and document sharing over the Internet, among others.
Local examples of providers that are targeting small business include: Sage One or SMEasy for online accounting and payroll, Internet Solution’s Hosted Premium Email, Attix5 for backup, or Cloud PBX, a virtual telephone switchboard in the cloud.
Just because your business is utilising an application on the cloud provider’s infrastructure, does not mean that they have access to your corporate data.
Your business will be provided with a secure username and password to access your applications and company information via the Internet.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is another cloud service model when you would provision your own chosen software applications on the provider’s server, storage resources connected securely to the internet or private network.
It can scale up and down with your business and is a great place to host your website for example.
Another variation of cloud computing includes Platform as a Service (PaaS) where your developers can deploys applications onto the cloud provider’s infrastructure, using programming languages and tools supported by the provider.
Where do I start?
All you need to access cloud services is a reliable Internet connection, devices of your choice, which could be a selection of tablets, notebooks and smart phones, and a reputable cloud provider that meets your business needs.
A new start-up could typically save on IT costs by looking at accessing SaaS from the start, before making major IT investments in software and infrastructure hardware.
A more established entrepreneur should investigate their legacy environment and move the systems that are up for renewal or a major upgrade to the cloud, rather than making a major capital outlay on new IT infrastructure. They would then typically investigate SaaS, as well as IaaS.
Choose a large, reputable cloud provider that offers your business a range of services to fulfil various functions in your business. It’s all about leverage.
If you want to compete with the big players in your industry, you need to transact with a major cloud provider that can provide you with services that gives you a competitive edge.