MT Expert: The cloud - what's in it for you?

If you've been left behind by all the chatter about cloud computing, here's a handy explanation of what it actually is, what it does and how you can use it to cut costs and make doing business more simple

by Claire Lewis
Last Updated: 25 Jan 2013

There has been much talk – maybe too much – about ‘cloud computing’. But if you’ve had your head in the clouds (or not as the case may be), in simple terms, as opposed to being in your office, the servers that host your websites, emails, data and software are accessed via the internet.Cloud computing services are a big opportunity for small companies to cut some costs and simplify the ‘IT bit’ of the business. Facebook, Flickr, iCloud, Google Docs, YouTube: you’ve probably heard of a few of these. They all use ‘the cloud’.

These services bring about a number of exciting advantages for a business:

1) Reduced IT investment

2) The ability to move faster

3) Employees can access work programs and files from anywhere

4) You only pay for what you use, instead of having to buy expensive hardware for your office 

5) Reliability and keeping your data/content secure

Despite these advantages, however, it is understandable that SME owners can feel nervous about losing physical servers from their premises.  Research has found that data security is the primary concern of businesses considering cloud services. As a business owner you must assess your individual business case as to whether cloud services could be useful for you.

Look at your business objectives, opportunities and goals in relation to growth and performance.  Review your individual business circumstances against criteria such as need for mobility, seasonal surges, and income/cost patterns.  All these areas should give clues as to whether flexible cloud-based IT could offer you ways to enhance your operations.  Upon assessing your technical needs, the next step is to ensure you find the right supplier/partner. The quality of service, such as reliability and network speed, will be key to the success of your cloud solutions.

Before purchasing, be sure to talk in depth with cloud providers. Although a strong option for most business models and IT setups, cloud services must be carefully considered in relation to the business model, scale and working environment. Depending on the complexity of a business’s IT infrastructure, it may be advisable to move to the cloud in a phased approach.  Cloud services can easily and effectively be bolted-on to existing on-premise systems. 

Cloud computing is definitely worth your consideration and when deployed correctly, can help you achieve a competitive advantage.  

Top five things to consider when looking at Cloud solutions:

- What am I going to use the service for?

- What features do I need?

- How long do I need the service for – on-going or for a specific project?

- In what ways can the solution grow and does it meet my business ambitions? 

- Is my business growth organic or should a solution cater for peak periods and low periods?

- Can I implement and manage the solution myself, or do I need a managed service?

Claire Lewis, from cloud services at Fasthosts Internet Ltd, 

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Why you overvalue your own ideas

And why you shouldn't.

When spying on your staff backfires

As Barclays' recently-scrapped tracking software shows, snooping on your colleagues is never a good idea....

A CEO’s guide to smart decision-making

You spend enough time doing it, but have you ever thought about how you do...

What Tinder can teach you about recruitment

How to make sure top talent swipes right on your business.

An Orwellian nightmare for mice: Pest control in the digital age

Case study: Rentokil’s smart mouse traps use real-time surveillance, transforming the company’s service offer.

Public failure can be the best thing that happens to you

But too often businesses stigmatise it, says investor Ewan Kirk.