Over the past decade, as internet usage has grown, the general public has grown more comfortable using applications and services delivered via the web. Most of us use email services like gmail, hotmail, and other web services everyday without realizing that we are already using cloud computing.
Many small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) are starting to explore the feasibility of using the cloud for their businesses as well. Moving to the cloud makes a lot of sense for startups since they do not have a lot invested in expensive IT systems. Going to the cloud is the most economical and quickest way to get the business up and running for most startups, unless the startup needs highly special hardware and/or software that needs a dedicated local server or there is a lack of clarity about federal/state regulations pertaining to its data and privacy.
So what is cloud computing? As mentioned earlier, cloud computing is a model of computing where the IT infrastructure, applications and data is delivered to the end user as a service over the internet. Cloud is dynamically scalable and allows IT resources to be consumed on-demand by the end user in a secure and controlled manner. It is cost-effective, because businesses don't need to make upfront capital investments, nor do they have to worry about high and low demand periods in their business. Cloud computing customers can easily scale up and down as their demand fluctuates. They also do not have to worry about costly repairs and maintenance costs associated with owning their infrastructure. They simply pay for the resources they use, as they use them, usually on a monthly basis.
But before you decide to take your business assets to the cloud, you need to make a lot of technology and vendor decisions. First, you need to decide what applications you can take to the cloud right away. Email and file sharing applications are primary candidates for beginning the journey to the cloud. I would then incrementally add applications to the cloud once I am comfortable with working in the cloud. Pick the ideal project to start with and add more challenging projects as you experience success. Cloud solutions are also a natural fit for Disaster Recovery, because they store information offsite and are easily accessed in a time of crisis. With cloud-based disaster recovery, it is easy to deploy a failed physical server in a virtual environment, enabling end users to continue to work and reducing business downtime.
Data security and privacy is one of the most important criteria to consider while deciding to go the cloud. This is especially critical for businesses that are governed by federal/state regulations and compliance laws. Selecting the right cloud vendor for your business becomes a very important decision to ensure that your transition to the cloud is successful. Asking the right questions to the vendor regarding their security policies, SAS 70 certification, data redundancy, disaster and recovery scenario, internet and power redundancy, and their SLAs (service level agreements) before you commit to the vendor, will make your journey to the cloud a success.