You may not know it yet, but cloud computing is going to change the way you do business.
Gone will be the days of provisioning hardware and software, creating space to house them, doing data backup and paying for maintenance. Instead, companies are paying a monthly fee and having that all done for them, says Ben Grele, director of the IT services practice group at Burr Pilger Mayer.
“You could compare cloud computing to a utility such as electricity, where no one is running a generator to power their business,” says Grele. “Yet everyone expects that when they flip a switch, the light comes on. Cloud computing offers that same value proposition, where all you do is log in and off you go. You shouldn’t have to worry about running IT systems yourself; it makes a lot more sense to focus on your core business.”
Smart Business spoke with Grele about how cloud computing can help move your company into the future.
What is cloud computing?
Cloud computing is basically referring to IT resources that are accessible over the Internet and available as a service, on demand. There are many services that can be provided over the cloud that are commonly referred to as Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Whatever the service, it is completely managed by the provider, and is for the most part immaterial to the end user. For example, enterprise grade e-mail, CRM or ERP are available as cloud computing services from many providers.
How can cloud computing benefit a business?
First, it gives businesses the ability to deploy new applications very quickly without having to provision expensive hardware and software or going through the installation and setup, as they would normally do in a traditional on-premise deployment. Second, it’s flexible and allows businesses to rapidly scale resources up or down depending on needs. Ordinarily for an on-premise deployment, companies go through a complex sizing process to determine the amount of computing power they’ll need to handle peak processing, even when peak represents a very small percentage of the time. This means that the rest of time the environment is well underutilized. Third, in a cloud computing model, companies end up paying for how much of the service they use as they use it, much like they do with any other utility.
Additionally, in a traditional on-premise environment, companies have to account for the whole lifecycle of the new application they just deployed, like power and cooling, patching, hardware and software upgrades, backup and archive, disaster recovery and so forth. All these functions are complicated, costly and time-consuming and, let’s face it, do not contribute positively to the bottom line.
Can a business make the transition on its own, or does it need expert help?
Whether migrating an existing application to the cloud or deploying a new application in the cloud, it is a good idea to leverage an experienced consulting firm. Most companies, especially small and medium-sized companies, have limited IT capabilities and personnel. So hiring an outside consulting firm to help with the deployment of applications on the cloud to shorten the timeline and avoid common pitfalls makes perfect sense. Migrating to the cloud is an iterative process and an experienced consulting firm can help put together the optimum migration strategy to match requirements.
A consultant can help you identify your needs and integrate your specific business processes into your new cloud solution. An experienced consultant will also be able to help you take advantage of new features or functions that are now available to your business.
What are some common mistakes businesses make when moving to the cloud?
Pitfalls include failing to leverage solutions to their full capability and not provisioning the security aspect of using an application on the cloud. It does require a different approach from a security perspective, and take into consideration that some of the traffic between end users and the application goes over the Internet.
It is also important to understand where your proprietary data resides on the cloud and how it is protected. Most cloud computing service providers have very strict security protocols to guarantee any data protection level to meet even the most stringent regulatory compliance levels. Most cloud service providers will match or exceed the security level that you would have in your own data center.
Do you foresee a time when on-premise systems become a thing of the past?
Absolutely. The world of information technology is evolving at a pace that even large companies with mature IT departments and sophisticated business processes struggle to keep up with. Typical deployments of new applications require substantial investments in both money and people and are quite complex and lengthy. Cloud computing is changing that paradigm by removing most capital expenditures, shortening deployment timelines and greatly reducing the overall costs of deploying new applications. It enables business leaders to drive adoption of new ‘in the cloud’ solutions based on business requirements, without burdening the ROI with the traditional IT costs of on-premise deployments.
Ben Grele is director of the IT services practice group at Burr Pilger Mayer. Reach him at (415) 677-4595 or BGrele@bpmcpa.com.