Can Small Businesses Use Cloud Computing?

For years, small businesses have wondered how they could possibly compete against big firms like IBM (IBM), Microsoft (MSFT) and Oracle (ORCL) when it comes to enterprise technology. But after a recent spate of reports and media headlines, small businesses are beginning to see how they could benefit from cloud-computing services.

Even the Department of Homeland Security has endorsed cloud computing, arguing in favor of keeping the best ideas and practices from the public sector within government.

“Adopting cloud-based solutions is not a game changer, but it is an important step for small businesses,” said Allan Nordstrom, CEO of Webdynamics, an Atlanta-based cloud computing company. “It could fundamentally change how small businesses get their information, manage their processes and communicate internally. And it may potentially increase their bottom line.”

Amazon’s Business Cloud, Microsoft’s Azure and Google’s Google Apps for Business are becoming more widely used, and many businesses are turning to these services to streamline communications, organize files, build websites and run other business functions.

How Can Small Businesses Take Advantage of Cloud Computing?

On-site systems still dominate many businesses, but in many cases, the small businesses that want to use these cloud services are not tied down by multi-year contracts. Often, cloud services are just as affordable as on-site systems.

Sydney Allport, vice president of the public sector for Oracle, said the average person spends about 80 percent of his or her time working on-site, so cloud systems could be a game changer for businesses.

“Once that security process is taken away, you can bring your best and brightest minds anywhere you want them,” said Cary Jordan, CEO of Webdynamics. “It becomes much easier to collaborate with businesses. There are so many more things you can do and much better flexibility.”

Small businesses are taking advantage of cloud computing. The Small Business Administration recently introduced its Enterprise Cloud Services pilot program, encouraging small businesses to get involved in the public sector and encourage the use of cloud systems.

Building Cloud Strategies

Getting started is not always easy. Cloud services can come with different security requirements, requirements that some businesses may not have considered. Jordan said that businesses may need to evaluate their security before joining any of the cloud services.

“Small businesses that are working on their credit could have a difficult time because they may be subjected to an extra layer of scrutiny or additional security measures,” Jordan said.

Jeff Davidson, CEO of Small Business Solutions, a cloud computing provider based in Connecticut, said small businesses need to evaluate the cloud services they are using, depending on what it is they want to use the cloud for.

“You need to take into consideration how much cloud computing you need to get what you want,” Davidson said.

He said that businesses need to look at a service’s security, but also ask about how they’ll need to manage their network.

Davidson noted that many small businesses are often tied into their own internal IT systems, so they may not need to worry about network security. But some businesses, Davidson said, do have specific concerns about what would happen if they were locked out of their own internal networks.

“You need to assess what your network security needs are,” Davidson said. “You need to know how much more you’ll have to pay for it. If you use the cloud for your back office and it costs you more, you might not want to jump to a public cloud.”

To build a cloud strategy, Davidson said companies need to do a lot of evaluation of the various cloud services.

Should You Invest in Cloud or a Dedicated Server?

Cloud Hosting

If you are about to start your website business, you will need to decide who will handle your web hosting, and what kind of web hosting you need. Figuring out your hosting bandwidth and disk space need is not an easy task but it has a major impact on the type of hosting you should choose.

Some companies are making large investments in cloud computing today, making it affordable for small businesses too. Basically, there are only three kinds to choose from: cloud hosting, dedicated web hosting, and shared web hosting.

What is Cloud Hosting?

Cloud is a big network of dedicated servers all connected together and sharing their resources. It’s like a huge dedicated server but the huge number of servers brings more redundancy for a virtually 100% uptime. If you wan to learn more visit the website of the International Cloud Symposium.

What is Dedicated Hosting?

Dedicated web hosting means that you buy the exclusive use of a company’s server, or at least one of its servers. This is your to do as you please. In the case of shared web hosting, you pay a small fee to use a server that other websites are also using.

It’s similar to someone renting an entire building, and someone renting an entire floor of that building.

Dedicated or Cloud?

Which kind should you choose? Well, that would depend on your requirements and your objective.

First, if you need the space, and you want to be absolutely sure of safety and security measures, then you need cloud hosting or a dedicated web host. This way, you lessen the risk of someone hacking into your system You will also have the freedom to download and upload anything you want without fear of stepping over your space limits.

When you subscribe to a shared web hosting, you have to choose a scheme. The schemes would change only as far as the amount of space you need for your website. The smaller the space, the cheaper the monthly payments.

Second, being a top client of the provider because you are renting one server, you get immediate attention from your provider. You are assured of excellent technical assistance and 24/7 service. Most providers allot more time and attention in pleasing a client who rents a server.

Thirdly, your website will perform better since you do not have to worry about sharing space with anyone. It will upload faster and your website performance will be top notch.

What is the Downside?

So, what’s the catch? Obviously, you will have to pay more for a dedicated web hosting. You will also have incidental expenses for power source and HVAC systems. Other than the additional expense, there is no real downside.

Therefore, plan your website carefully. If you want to go big time from the start, and you can afford to buy a dedicate web hosting, then go for it. Just make sure you did the math carefully. In business, it’s very easy to move up, but extremely depressing to have to downscale. It not only makes you feel bad, but your clients and guests in your website will notice the difference and you risk them moving to another site for good.

The KISS Method

If you are unsure of how your first year will turn out, then follow the KISS method – Keep It Simple, Silly. Start conservative and shift to the dedicated web hosting when you are reaching full┬ácapacity.