It’s a question I hear often in my travels, where almost everyone has heard of “the cloud” and many have since become interested. However, as with all new technology trends, it’s not an easy jump and people want the reassurance that they’re not jumping the gun in doing so.
However, for this article, I just want to focus on defining “the cloud” which I think is where most the confusion starts. I could make a pun about things being “cloudy” but I won’t sink that low and insult your intelligence. So, in short, I split “the cloud” into two different categories. There can be an overlap of these as well, so it can’t get a little gray (see, another possible cloud pun) as companies utilize a mixture of both which is becoming more and more common.
- Web-based applications: There are the completely web-based applications where most would like to go to but is quite honestly unrealistic for most at this time. This is only because the applications needed by most companies are not truly web based yet. There are CRM packages like Zoho, Sugar, SalesForce.com, hosted MS CRM, etc., even office applications like Google Apps, and QuickBooks Online or Xero for accounting. However, to utilize everything as a web based application where all of your data is hosted somewhere “up there” is pretty cutting edge, even for those that live on the cutting edge. The hardware savings are immense here as no servers are needed, only good workstations with a solid internet connection. There’s of course a cost for the applications, but it all evens out when you consider hardware costs for server and the support team.
- Hosted Server Applications: So, there is the other “cloud” – the one where we outsource our server hosting, our internal IT support, and your backup strategies, many times renting space in a “server farm” in that you have your server based applications hosted elsewhere and you use Citrix or Remote Desktop Services to connect to your virtual desktop. It’s a nice system actually and when done right can really be smooth to your users. This is an ideal situation for those that use client/server applications but want to stop having to worry about their own servers or supporting those servers. Many times the costs of a hosted system are far lower than monthly IT support, server upkeep, and workstations (a hosted environment does not necessarily need a powerful desktop to remote into the environment). On top of that, what’s the value of just knowing that your server is in a secure location, being backed up by the experts, watched by a solid IT team, and being able to relax and do your job – not the job of an IT professional.
In the near future I’ll focus a bit more on how you’ll know if you’re ready and what some deciding factors are. However, for now I just want to add a bit more clarity so we’re all a little bit closer to finding the “silver lining” – couldn’t resist, sorry.