Why Small Businesses Should Move to the Cloud

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According to Mr. Steve Strauss of USA Today the first Top 10 list that David Letterman created aired in  September 1985 on his “Late Night” television show. It was titled “Things That Almost Rhyme with Peas.” As “The Late Show with David Letterman” comes to an end this week, Mr. Strauss takes this opportunity to engage the host’s famous top-10 list format to communicate why small businesses should move to the cloud. Check out some of those reasons…

  • It’s the future. Mr. Strauss explains, “Whether we like it or not, and whether you want to or not, your business will be moving to the cloud. Of course, you already do email in the cloud, but it is just as easy to move your other business applications there as well, whether for document storage, security, office applications, backup, finances and accounting, sales and marketing, or what have you.”
  • It’s safer. Cloud solution providers have invested in some of the best security technology out there that small businesses can tap into to better protect their own data
  • It’s easier than you think. Mr. Strauss points out that time and money are often the two biggest hurdles for small business owners. He recognizes there will be a learning curve with the cloud but not one so big that it outweighs the money and time benefits
  • It will make you more productive. In order to keep day-to-day operations going small businesses can find themselves focused on too many non-revenue generating activities beyond their specialties. There are many cloud solutions that can help take those woes off your plate and allow for more focus on strategic areas
  • It’s scalable. Cloud solutions are ready to grow with you or to dial down as needed without large investments
  • It’s affordable and up-to-date. Still running an old back-end system? Hoping an upgrade is in the budget for next year? With the cloud this is no longer the question because the app is always updated. Plus instead of buying the entire software package you are just “renting,” as Mr. Strauss puts it, what you need – improving affordability.

So what was Mr. Strauss’ number 1 reason to move to the cloud? The cloud can make your life easier. Why? Your data and applications will be accessible as needed by your team from anywhere and at anytime…and from any device.

The time is right to take that next step to get your business on track to benefit from the strengths of the cloud.

A Data Fabric for Cloud

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Jay Kidd writes for Forbes, “Running applications in the cloud is extremely compelling, because you get to run your applications on equipment that you don’t have to pay for or manage. But you still need to be the steward for your data.” How does a company do that when there are many cloud solutions, vendors and even ideas to implement?

 

Mr. Kidd  recommends creating a data fabric – a consistent set of values that connects your data, processes and your organization no matter where it is operating. He writes that to create a data fabric you need to keep in mind four items:

  • A solid foundation of virtualization software
  • Proven data-transport technology between cloud solutions – efficient in storage and bandwidth-use
  • Consistent data services for all applications
  • Ability to deploy in different configurations

Mr. Kidd adds, “The future landscape of IT is a mixture of clouds—public and private. What’s needed is a way to consistently manage, secure, protect, share and move data across this hybrid cloud setup.” A data fabric can provide that consistency to allow you to weave between cloud solutions and stay connected.

In another article Mr. Kidd highlights the benefits of having a data fabric in place:

  • A data fabric can help alleviate your team’s workload because it allows for non-core functions to move more easily to the cloud
  • A data fabric can allow you to take advantage of cost savings from existing cloud application offerings – moving becomes easier when you have a consistent fabric in place
  • A data fabric can improve focus on core applications by providing a more effecient means to transfer non-core apps to the cloud
  • A data fabric  allows you to take advantage of the cloud’s flexibility when it comes to development and testing. Data sets can be “cloned” and even worked on by developers in parallel

Mr. Kidd predicts that many will find themselves in a world of multiple clouds and multiple vendors. Taking the time today to establish a common and consistent view of your data and developing a data fabric will serve you well down the road in terms of efficiencies, cost savings and innovation.

Reasons for a Cloud Disaster Recovery Solution

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Technology teams in small- and medium-sized businesses wear many hats from data center management to virtualization strategy, analytics and networking and sometimes even desktop support.  As today’s business environment continues to move faster and faster business continuity plays a key role in your company’s success.  Many technology teams find that they are having to put on the disaster recovery hat more often.

“70% of small businesses that experience a major data loss go out of business within a year,” reports Kyle Cebull for Smart Data Collective. That is a staggering number.  Data can be at risk from any number of factors: a virus, natural disaster, or a data breach.  Human error can also be a major cause of disasters and outages. Mr. Cebull’s article highlights the need for disaster recovery planning – having the information and systems in place to get your business back up and running so clients and customers remain happy and confident.

So, back to the first point, your technology team is pulled in many directions and may not have the expertise (and budget!) to create a great disaster recovery solution. Enter the cloud. Cloud-based disaster recovery is an affordable and flexible option. InfoWorld highlights the following reasons in support of a cloud-based disaster recovery solution:

  • Ease of getting started. With the right partner, cloud-based disaster recovery can be much easier to set up then an on-premise solution, because you are able to tap into outside systems – no building your own costly infrastructure
  • Flexible costs. Traditional disaster recovery systems typically require business to make tradeoffs to keep within their budgets.  Cloud-based disaster recovery typically allows for a lower price point for common DR uses and also allows for scaling and the ability to more easily adjust as requirements change

Last but not least, cloud-based disaster recovery allows you to tap into industry best practices and expertise. Your technology team can focus on what it knows best – your company and customers – while also feeling confident that if a disaster strikes they have the right systems in place.

Surprising Cloud Benefits

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Joe McKendrick of Forbes reports that a recent study of 1,000 executives found that one in four have seen cloud benefits that they did not expect. Let’s look at the break out of this recent cloud survey from Tata Communications.

What were the cloud benefit surprises?

  • 25% saw improved communications within their organization
  • 22% found new unanticipated revenue sources
  • 22% had greater than expected customer satisfaction
  • 68% found that the move to cloud was not solely led by IT

Another surprise from the survey included the forecast that by 2024 enterprises will have 58% of their compute and data storage in the cloud. Mr. McKendrick reports that the current storage level averages 28%.

What cloud benefits were expected and experienced?

  • 65% gained increased speed of access to technology
  • 67% saw reduced delivery times to clients and partners
  • 54% saw the time to introduce a new services to new markets reduced

Speaking of cloud benefits, Matt Watts, contributor to Forbes finds that too many leaders are still hung up on budget or technology rather than discussing what benefits cloud will bring the organization. He writes, “The potential of cloud computing extends far beyond simple financial savings or ease of provisioning. Instead, cloud offers enormous opportunity for new innovation, and even the disruption of entire industries.”

Here are his suggestions to move the conversation:

  • Determine your cloud provider options
  • Identify influential business groups and show them how cloud will benefit
  • Fight fear of change with excitement
  • Identify early wins to establish more confidence in the cloud
  • Classify your applications and determine which would do well in the cloud
  • Weigh switching to a cloud-based applications versus migration of an on-premise application
  • Evaluate specialized cloud services such as disaster recovery

Cloud projects are more than just budget and technology.  They are also about the cloud benefits your organization will gain both expected and surprising.

Forrester Predicts: Hypergrowth for Public Cloud

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Sharon Gaudin of Computerworld reports that Forrester has changed its public cloud computing forecast predicting the market to hit $191 billion by 2020. Earlier forecasts predicted $160 billion by 2020. What has changed?

Forrester reports that much of the change in growth is due to more companies moving from viewing the technology as a complement to a replacement – especially in the start-up market. Ms. Gaudin quotes Forrester analyst Andrew Bartels, “Complementing on-premise technology is still the dominant pattern, but there are clear examples that the cloud will become a replacement. Many start-up companies are going directly to cloud platforms. Over time, those new companies will become a larger part of the economy and a growing proportion of cloud business. It’s not the major part of it today but it’s clearly happening.”

Forrester’s research also finds that growth has jumped due to more companies looking for increased business agility and increased delivery of functionality to mobile users. Forrester breaks down its global public cloud computing forecast as follows:

  • Software as a Service (SaaS) will reach $131 billion by 2020
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS) will reach $44 billion by 2020
  • Business Services will reach $14 billion by 2020

Who is driving this growth? Currently, the lines of business and marketing and strategy units are driving much of the public cloud growth, but CIOs and IT are increasingly expected to drive these initiatives.

The current public cloud market hit $58 billion at the end of 2013. So a jump to $191 billion by 2020 is substantial. Are you still on the fence when it comes to cloud? Talk to us about your concerns. A Cloud Potential Study can be a great first step.