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Cloud Options for Your Business

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The percentage of U.S. small businesses using cloud computing is expected to more than double during the next six years, from 37 percent to nearly 80 percent, according to a study from consulting firm Emergent Research and financial software company Intuit. Using the cloud can save your organization time and money and it also has the potential to change the way you do business. If your company isn’t using the cloud yet, here is a quick recap of what the cloud is, your options and benefits to consider.

“Cloud computing” is simply accessing software, computer power and files over the internet instead of from one desktop at a time. The term was first used in 1996 by techies at Compaq but “cloud computing” didn’t really get traction until Google and Amazon began using it in 2006.

Nearly a decade later, as we all find we need access to more computer memory, processing power and apps, companies are flocking to the cloud – which are just data centers filled with powerful servers. “The cloud is a metaphor for the internet,” explains Reuven Cohen, cofounder of Cloud Camp, a course for programmers. “It’s just a rebranding of the internet.”

That being said, what are your options and why should you consider cloud-based computing?

Public Cloud
This is where services, applications and storage are available as “pay per use.” It’s fast and easy to set up and takes the burden of beefing up equipment and staff off your company. But the underlying architecture is fixed, which means less customization, less security and as-is performance. Still, Public Cloud fans – mostly small to medium size businesses – like the economies of scale.

Private Cloud
Just like it sounds, a Private Cloud is designed exclusively for your organization. It takes some time and decision-making to set up. Management and IT work together to agree on how their cloud should be configured, what it should do and who should run it. This cloud can be managed internally or a third party can host it. While Private Cloud is more flexible and security can be as advanced as you need it to be, the up-front investment is larger than just jumping into a ready-made cloud. Companies enjoy long-term economies rather than the short term savings of a ready-made Public Cloud.

Hybrid Cloud
A sort of “elastic” solution, a Hybrid Cloud utilizes a combination of internal and external cloud services. It’s especially good for companies (like E-commerce) that experience changes like seasonal spikes in usage. You can manage the regulatory and security-focused functions in house (regulatory stuff and customer payment info, for example) and let an off-site data center handle order processing and account management.

10 Benefits of Cloud Computing
“When not burdened with the costs and time to set up an underlying infrastructure,” writes Michael Biddick of Information Week, “organizations can focus on app requirements. They can either design a custom app or modify one that already exists in a cloud environment.”

Here is a list of ten more reasons business technology professionals say they like cloud computing:

  1. Extra bandwidth on demand – there when you need it, not a cost when you don’t
  2. Disaster recovery – data centers are set up for this sort of thing
  3. Automatic software updates
  4. Budget aid: no capital expenditure; predictable ongoing operating expenses
  5. Employee collaboration (ability to sync up no matter where they are)
  6. Work from anywhere – desk, home or on the road
  7. Central storage – files aren’t buzzing back & forth between employees via email
  8. Security – what if someone lost their laptop with all their important work on it? Over 800,000 laptops per year are lost in airports alone!
  9. Competitive edge – SMEs can get access to enterprise-class technology
  10. Environmentally friendly – less energy consumption onsite, less carbon emission

Sources: Inc.com, ThinkGrid.com, Salesforce.com, Information Week and MIT Technology Review

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