What is ‘The Cloud’, and why should I care?

/
16Sep2010

What is ‘The Cloud’, and why should I care?

  • By Andrew Garrett
  • 1 Tags
  • 0 Comments

There’s a lot of talk in the IT press about “The Cloud”, and putting services into it.

\n

But what does it mean? More importantly, what does it mean for your business?

\n

In simple terms, ‘putting services into the cloud’ means that instead of running servers yourself, on your premises, you pay someone else to run them for you, on their premises. Generally, this is offered by someone with large data centres, and teams of dedicated support engineers to keep things running smoothly.

\n

201009151529.jpgThey leverage economies of scale, managing tens of thousands of users on large clusters of servers, making them much more efficient to manage well. You pay a simple monthly fee (rates and service levels vary between providers and offerings), sometimes on a per user basis, and get the service provided to you. This has the benefit of giving you a more functional environment, with less downtime, and also allows you to scale (upwards and downwards) according to your business needs, while spreading your costs out evenly. Remember, this is all pure operational cost as well, with little or no capital outlay. Your IT support costs go down, and your functionality goes up.

\n

Probably the simplest service to run in this manner is email.

\n

Right now, the odds are pretty good that you have a server in a machine room somewhere. It’s probably running Microsoft Exchange, and if you’re lucky, that will be the latest version of Windows Server and Microsoft Exchange. All mail for your business comes into that, and if it’s well managed, you’ve most likely got all incoming mail routed through a third party anti-virus and anti-spam facility (at a cost of about $5 per month per user). The hardware, software and installation together probably cost you something on the order of $15,000. Ongoing support (by a third party) is going to cost something like $350 a month. So, over three years, that’s going to cost you $27,600, and $180 per user.

\n

Sure adds up, doesn’t it?

\n

For somewhere around $5-$25 a month (different offerings come with a range of bundled inclusions, and different prices associated with them), you can move to a fully hosted email solution. All your hassles that relate to running the server are outsourced to a specialist provider, you don’t have anything like the same initial outlay, and you can scale as much as you need to, up or down, without needing to buy new hardware. Also, your users can log into your email from anywhere, without exposing your internal network to the world, while the security team at your email provider actively manage the system to keep up to date with security updates and the like.

\n

The Cloud is more than just email, of course. The odds are pretty good that most things you currently have a server for, someone can provide a remote hosted software as a service. CRM systems are commonly hosted outside of the organisation’s 4 walls (we’ve all heard of Salesforce.com, right?), as this makes it much easier for sales staff to access and update data from the road, intranet facilities are a prime candidate to be hosted externally (as long as access to them is secured appropriately).

\n

One thing to bear in mind, if off-siting business systems is on the cards for you, is the physical location where these services are housed. No matter how good our internet gets, it will still probably be faster to access a server that’s in Australia compared to one that’s somewhere in Siberia (where hosting, and cooling, are both very cheap). You may also have legal or contractual restrictions about where your client’s data can be located.

\n

Like most IT decisions, whether The Cloud is right for you should come down to business realities. Does it make financial sense for you to spread the cost out, into OpEx, even if you end up paying a bit more in the long run? So you want to keep up with the technology curve? Is it important for your business to be able to scale up and down quickly? Do you have contractual obligations that require you to keep customer data on your premises?

\n
Linkedin Twitter Facebook Digg Delicious Reddit Email

CATEGORIES Uncategorized

COMMENTS
00132407