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The ultimate small business cloud computing Q&A

Cloud? SaaS? Does it make any sense to the average small business owner? This Q&A should help clear things up.

Cloud computing small businessQ: What is cloud?

A: Put simply, cloud computing is a technology model whereby software and IT infrastructure are delivered as services via the internet or what is referred to as the cloud, allowing users to access virtual pools of IT resources as and when they need them. The services delivered over the cloud are readily accessible to businesses on a pay-per-use basis, which means they are able to temporarily rent infrastructure, providing greater flexibility and cost savings.

Q: Are there different types of cloud?

A: There are two main types of cloud: public and private. Public cloud is a cloud provider outside the organisation that a business uses to obtain services. Private cloud is a cloud environment within the organisation. There is a huge range of different cloud services that can be implemented depending on the customer’s needs. Every small business differs in regards to factors such as its affiliation with its service providers or how many IT resources it has on staff, so each business’ ideal cloud solution will also be different. Often, the solution will be something that combines both the public and private cloud.

Q: Why should I implement cloud computing in my business?

A: While many small and medium-sized businesses are apprehensive about making the change to cloud computing, it is these businesses that stand to benefit as much as, if not more than, larger enterprises from the technology.

SMEs do not necessarily have the IT resources, infrastructure, training or skill sets in-house and thus a cloud service can provide an end-to-end solution allowing the business to make considerable savings in terms of investment and operational costs.

The beauty of this technology approach is that cloud is a flexible and elastic service that can be used for as long as needed and can then be turned off without paying for a service that is not being used. Conversely, capacity can be quickly and easily added in line with business growth when required, freeing up both resources and time.

Overall, adopting cloud computing leads to improved cost efficiency, improved leverage of resources, automation, flexibility, greater mobility, and access and freedom for IT staff to be proactive and add value.

Q: Are virtualisation and cloud the same thing?

A: The terms ‘virtualisation’ and ‘cloud computing’ are often used interchangeably. The main difference between having your own IT environment virtualised and private cloud computing relates to automation. With cloud computing, there is more use of automation technologies and the user is required to do less manual administrative tasks. Therefore organisations ideally need to virtualise in order to be ready for cloud.

[Next: Can any business do this cloud thing?]

Q: What hardware changes will virtualisation make to my server room?

This will depend on what you already have set up. Generally speaking, users find that they need less of some things and more of others.

For example, by adopting server virtualisation, the user will need less physical servers to run their applications. This is a huge benefit, with the user being able to sometimes cut their physical server deployments by 60-80 percent. Considering that the average server cost is about $8,000, server virtualisation can be extremely cost efficient.

Q: When is the best time for me to move to cloud computing and can any business do it?

A: This technology will have tangible benefits for businesses of any size and structure and can be implemented at anytime. It will only depend on the type of organisation as to which solution fits best.

Q: What types of products are out there to help me implement this technology?

A: Together with our partners, EMC has worked hard to make this technology easy for small and medium businesses. Products such as starter packs from VMware, are available and are a great way to embrace virtualisation and be on track to achieve more cost and time-efficient IT systems.

Q: Final thoughts?

A: The benefits of embracing cloud computing speak for themselves: improved cost efficiency and leverage of resources along with greater mobility and flexibility. Companies of all sizes stand to gain an impressive return on investment as a result of implementing this technology.

Making the step towards cloud computing might initially put some businesses out of their comfort zone, however embracing it will undoubtedly lead to improved efficiency and cost savings.

Cloud computing is the next evolution in the management and delivery of IT services, and for companies that have not yet virtualised in what is an increasingly competitive environment, the ROI or ‘Risk Of Ignoring’ is substantial. The longer companies ignore this technology, the greater the opportunity lost.

–Darren McCullum is VMware Business Manager, EMC ANZ.

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Darren McCullum

Darren McCullum

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