For some small business owners, the cloud is a resource they cannot live without. It offers them access to more technological resources with less expenditure. Yet for others, the cloud can feel confusing and unwieldy. Learning more about different cloud models and applications can help you determine whether the cloud is the right choice for your business.
An overview of cloud computing:
Several different models of cloud computing are available, and understanding what each one offers can help you accurately evaluate its services. Infrastructure as a service (or IaaS) provides the basic cloud structure, including network and storage. A cloud-based backup system such as Dropbox is an example of IaaS. Software as a service (SaaS) offers the use of cloud-based applications, as Google Drive does. Platform as a service (PaaS) provides cloud space for application development and deployment. You cannot alter the cloud network, but you can modify some settings to develop enterprise applications and the Google App Engine is one example of PaaS.
With all these models, you pay only for the level of services you need. As your business needs increase, you can purchase more storage space or add on applications. For small businesses, this means delaying some of the costs of investing in technology until the moment of need, which represents a valuable cash savings over purchasing infrastructure up front. There may even be a free option that meets your needs.
Are you a good candidate for cloud computing?
If you have an IT person—or if you are the IT person—and you have the money to purchase and maintain a server, you may not need the cloud. If you’re not tech savvy, a cloud provider can take over much of the maintenance and upgrade work. The cloud might be a low priority for outdoor-based business, such as landscape architects and those that have few employees.
In general, industries that need a high degree of collaboration or that rely on social media for marketing and outreach will benefit significantly from migrating to the cloud. These fields may include education, health care, marketing, finance, security and technology.
With so many cloud databases, the onus falls on you to evaluate which one provides the right services. The considerations include the following:
Price: How much do packages cost? What is the cost to scale up?
Customer Service: What level of customer service and technical support will you receive? Is this free or require a fee?
Accessibility: How much downtime does the provider experience? Can you access cloud infrastructure from mobile devices and tablets?
Ease of Use: How easy is it to get started with the service or software? What sort of training is provided, if any?
Security: What security measures, such as firewalls, encryption or authentication, does the provider use? How secure is the data center where your data is stored?
Some vendors offer trials periods or free lite versions of products. Take advantage of these, as using a product can help you determine if it’s something that will meet your needs.
Image Credit: Christian Aguilera