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Should a small business move its computing to the cloud?

Published on 14 March 14
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Should a small business move its computing to the cloud? - Image 1

Cloud computing is not just the latest IT buzzword designed to confound and befuddle small business owners. It can deliver real benefits for your company, from ensuring business continuity when disaster strikes to allowing your team to work flexibly and deliver great customer service from anywhere in the world.

But before you grab your gear and head for the nearest nimbus, Iâve afraid itâs not quite as simple as that. You need to decide if you want to be part of a public cloud or have your own, private cloud, and you have to choose between renting or buying your equipment.

Public clouds

Products such as Googledocs and Microsoftâs Office 365 offer access to a public cloud â that is, you effectively rent your own space in a large central cloud.

The good news is that these services are very cheap. You get backup, business continuity options and access from anywhere for a very small amount of money â and for a micro-business this is not an unreasonable option.

However, it gets more problematic the more staff you have. Microsoft and Google are prone to changing their products frequently, under the impression that theyâre improving them. But if youâve got 20 or so staff with varying degrees of IT confidence, even the smallest change can become quite disruptive. Also, changes that the providers force on you sometimes require some expert re-configuration of your network settings.

Not only that, but with a public cloud you have no real control over your own data, how secure it really is and what the cloud provider does with it.

Private clouds

If you opt for a private cloud it will be more expensive, but at least it will be all yours. There are two ways of managing it: either you buy your own kit and put it in someone elseâs data centre, or you lease the hardware from the data centre.

The decision you have to make is therefore about capital costs versus lease costs. If you decide to buy the kit, you are facing one large cost up-front â but at least, once youâve bought it, you have lower monthly payments for a few years as you are only paying for the space your kit occupies. If you lease from the data centre youâll be paying out more each month, but it will be the data centreâs responsibility to keep the equipment up to date and working. Itâs like leasing a car â yes, you have to budget for a regular monthly payment, but it covers regular servicing and you get a nice shiny new model every three years.

The problem with buying your own kit is that I can guarantee that youâll find it hard to squirrel away money for a new server when the time comes. So youâll keep on thinking you can manage for just another year ⦠until your hard drive goes (or the cam belt on your car).

How long does it take?

Once you have selected a supplier, it will take between four and six weeks to migrate all your systems to a private cloud. If planned properly the process can be entirely seamless, but you do need an expert company to oversee both the planning and the implementation.

Posted by Oxford-based IT support company First Line Support Ltd.



Should a small business move its computing to the cloud? - Image 1

Cloud computing is not just the latest IT buzzword designed to confound and befuddle small business owners. It can deliver real benefits for your company, from ensuring business continuity when disaster strikes to allowing your team to work flexibly and deliver great customer service from anywhere in the world.

But before you grab your gear and head for the nearest nimbus, Iâve afraid itâs not quite as simple as that. You need to decide if you want to be part of a public cloud or have your own, private cloud, and you have to choose between renting or buying your equipment.

Public clouds

Products such as Googledocs and Microsoftâs Office 365 offer access to a public cloud â that is, you effectively rent your own space in a large central cloud.

The good news is that these services are very cheap. You get backup, business continuity options and access from anywhere for a very small amount of money â and for a micro-business this is not an unreasonable option.

However, it gets more problematic the more staff you have. Microsoft and Google are prone to changing their products frequently, under the impression that theyâre improving them. But if youâve got 20 or so staff with varying degrees of IT confidence, even the smallest change can become quite disruptive. Also, changes that the providers force on you sometimes require some expert re-configuration of your network settings.

Not only that, but with a public cloud you have no real control over your own data, how secure it really is and what the cloud provider does with it.

Private clouds

If you opt for a private cloud it will be more expensive, but at least it will be all yours. There are two ways of managing it: either you buy your own kit and put it in someone elseâs data centre, or you lease the hardware from the data centre.

The decision you have to make is therefore about capital costs versus lease costs. If you decide to buy the kit, you are facing one large cost up-front â but at least, once youâve bought it, you have lower monthly payments for a few years as you are only paying for the space your kit occupies. If you lease from the data centre youâll be paying out more each month, but it will be the data centreâs responsibility to keep the equipment up to date and working. Itâs like leasing a car â yes, you have to budget for a regular monthly payment, but it covers regular servicing and you get a nice shiny new model every three years.

The problem with buying your own kit is that I can guarantee that youâll find it hard to squirrel away money for a new server when the time comes. So youâll keep on thinking you can manage for just another year ⦠until your hard drive goes (or the cam belt on your car).

How long does it take?

Once you have selected a supplier, it will take between four and six weeks to migrate all your systems to a private cloud. If planned properly the process can be entirely seamless, but you do need an expert company to oversee both the planning and the implementation.

Posted by Oxford-based IT support company First Line Support Ltd.

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